It’s going to take a long time for folks to forget the negative impact that Butch Jones had on the Tennessee Vols football program.
Sure, Jones did some good things while he was in Knoxville. He landed some star talent (and subsequently squandered it) and took the Vols to a few bowl games.
But the negative of the Butch era far outweighs the positive.
And we’ll get another reminder of that on Monday night when the Clemson Tigers take on the LSU Tigers in the national championship game.
There are four notable players on Clemson’s roster that grew up rooting for Tennessee. Wide receivers Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers are both from the Knoxville area (Rodgers’ dad is Vol legend Tee Martin) and grew up cheering for the Vols. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence grew up in a house that was all Vol.
Running back Travis Etienne, a Louisiana native, also grew up rooting for Tennessee.
When Etienne was asked ahead the national championship game this week if he grew up a LSU fan, he said “I was a Tennessee fan. I was a fan of the Tennessee Volunteers.”
(I had no clue before those comments that Etienne grew up a UT fan.)
Yet none of the four signed with the Vols. Higgins was committed at one point, but he ended up signing with Clemson instead.
Rodgers said the Vols never recruited him that hard, saying “They thought just because my dad went there I was gonna go there.”
Etienne visited Tennessee, but said “I just knew it wasn’t the place for me. Just really didn’t like the vibe”.
Lawrence famously called UT his “dream school”, but signed with Clemson instead.
All of these players signed with the Tigers over Tennessee during the Butch Jones era.
Things could’ve been a lot different if the foursome would’ve signed with the Vols.
Higgins opined that they could’ve been legends on Rocky Top, saying “What if we would have went there? We could’ve been legends there like Amari’s dad.”
Things worked out just fine for them, though — they’re playing for their second straight national championship on Monday night.
But it has to make Vol fans sick knowing it could be Tennessee taking the field on Monday night instead of Clemson.
Featured image via Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports/Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports