Tennessee football players haven't even had their first practice under Butch Jones, yet there is already evidence that the new head coach and his staff have had a positive influence on morale and overall team spirit.
On Friday morning, Jones (@UTCoachJones) took to Twitter to announce that, "Just had another powerful meeting w/ #Team117! Love the attitude they bring everyday! Upnext will b one of the biggest weekends so far! #VFL"
#Team117 is a social media hashtag symbolizing the Volunteers' 117th year of playing football. Players began using the slogan after a team meeting held last week. This type of team bonding exercise is something Jones has used in the past. His 2012 squad at the University of Cincinnati called itself #Team125 with the same meaning as that being used on Rocky Top.
The coach said he got the idea for such slogans from his late father, a police chief in his hometown of Saugatuck, Mich.
To provide evidence of the players buying into the idea, freshman tight end Justin Meredith (@CJMeredith82) has been among those to use the hashtag. He recently tweeted, "We are the 117 team in Tennessee football history. 116 is done, it's time to write our own history #117"
This latest team-building maneuver is just another step toward Jones' goal of building a family atmosphere within the Vols football program. This is reflected by the fact that many members of the current Tennessee coaching staff have been with their head coach for a number of years. And the hope is that these feelings of loyalty, trust and family will funnel right down to the players who will be taking the field wearing orange and white in the coming fall.
Jones has spoken often while in Knoxville about his own family, whether it be his relationship with his own wife and children or the impact made on him by his police chief father:
Very impactful. We talk about you creating your personal brand. What does your last name stand for? At a very early age I had such an amount of respect for my father that I wasn't going to do anything to jeopardize him, and I took great pride in the last name of Jones. I was never going to do anything to embarrass my father, and my dream was to be a police officer growing up. I wanted to be just like my dad, so he was a great role model. He believed in tough love. That's why I was working at an early age of 14 [washing dishes]. Along with my mother, he created a work habit. He created a standard that you never quit anything. They rode me every day, and I'm a better person because of it.
Clearly, Butch Jones believes in building a family atmosphere within the Tennessee football program. And he is doing so based on not only a blueprint he has used in the past at previous coaching stops but also from the real-life experiences from his own family.
And more importantly, it looks as if the Vols players are buying into the idea. #Team117
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. Follow along with his Chase for the Sprint Cup series by clicking on the driver of your choice Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch.