When Josh Heupel was introduced as the Tennessee Vols’ new head coach earlier this year, he spoke a lot about “family” and being connected in the locker room.

“We need to be a family,” said Heupel in late January. “We need to act like a family.”

“When you sit in front of your team and there’s 105 guys in front of you, everybody’s got a little bit of a different perspective. But at the end of the day, a family to me is defined [as] when push comes to shove, that family stays together. Let’s stay a family.”

Treating a football team like a family isn’t a novel concept. It’s something that most football coaches try to incorporate into a program’s culture.

Heupel, however, is self-aware enough to realize that the word “family” is overused by football coaches.

So to avoid sounding like a cliche machine who only communicates in coach speak, Heupel was real with his team when discussing the family connection at Tennessee.

Tennessee Vols

“Coach Heupel when he came in here he was trying to say that this is a family, but he said that family is an overused term,” said Vols wide receiver Velus Jones on Friday. “This is like a brotherhood.”

“He just let us know that we can trust in them, they’re going to trust in us and we’re going to build this relationship,” added Jones.

There’s going to be plenty of coach speak from Heupel over the next few years. That’s something that can be frustrating for fans (and media) at times. But that’s just one side of Heupel. That’s not the side the players are seeing every day.

And ultimately, what the players are seeing is what’s important. Heupel isn’t going to win any games from the podium. The work that goes in behind the scenes is what matters.

Featured image via Randy Sartin/USA TODAY


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