Tennessee Vols outside linebackers coach Mike Ekeler was the final assistant that Josh Heupel hired to fill out his inaugural UT coaching staff.

Ekeler, who has a lengthy resume that includes stops at numerous high-profile Power-5 programs, is an energetic coach that has already become a fan favorite in Knoxville.

The former Kansas State linebacker immediately endeared himself to Tennessee fans upon his arrival to Knoxville with his high-energy approach.

“You’ve got one shot, so your chili better be hot,” said Ekeler at his introductory press conference in early March. “You better be ready to rock and roll, and I enjoy that because I wake up about 3 a.m. every day and I don’t need a cup of coffee. I’m ready to go.”

On Thursday, Ekeler dropped a quote that Tennessee fans will absolutely love.

Ekeler was asked about Knoxville and how he feels about the city.

Here’s his response:

“I don’t mean this as disrespect to everywhere else I’ve been because I have loved every spot I have been, but I absolutely feel like I have died and gone to heaven here now. This place is everything I love. It’s got the mountains. It’s got water everywhere. I tell you what, I can’t wait to get my boat here. I am still looking for a place on the river. I want to ski to work every day. I love this place, great town, unbelievable town. People are so friendly, and I hope to be here a long time. I love it.”

It’s quite obvious that Ekeler is in love with Knoxville. That’s not a surprise. Most folks end up loving Knoxville.

But hearing this comment from Ekeler hits a bit different than hearing it come from other coaches.

That’s because Ekeler has lived in some prominent college towns, and he believes Knoxville is at the top of the list.

Here’s a list of notable towns/cities where Ekeler has lived during his coaching career.

  • Norman, OK (Oklahoma Sooners)
  • Baton Rouge, LA (LSU Tigers)
  • Lincoln, NE (Nebraska Cornhuskers)
  • Bloomington, IN (Indiana Hoosiers)
  • Los Angeles, CA (USC Trojans)
  • Athens, GA (Georgia Bulldogs)
  • Chapel Hill, NC (North Carolina Tar Heels)
  • Lawrence, KS (Kansas Jayhawks)

That’s an impressive list of college towns (plus Los Angeles).

It’s clear that Ekeler has a passion for East Tennessee. That’s going to help the Vols when it comes to recruiting because Ekeler’s excitement for Knoxville is going to extend to recruits.

The energy is different around Tennessee’s football program under Heupel. And Ekeler is a big reason why.

Featured image via Tennessee Athletic Communications

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