By KEVIN WEAKS
To make Tennessee No. 1, Butch Jones believes it will take the power of three.
The “Big Three” to be exact.
“There are common traits that make up successful people,” Jones said at a Boys and Girls Clubs of Northwest Tennessee banquet held Saturday night at UT Martin. “Their energy, their excitement, how they act, how they perceive things are all part what makes them successful. We break things down to threes, and we call them the “Big Three.”
Speaking to an audience of about 200 in the grand ballroom of the Boling Center, the Volunteers’ new football head coach spoke on mentoring and building a foundation of success, pointing that message at the club members in attendance.
He talked about his father, who served as chief of police in their hometown of Saugatuck, Mich., for 30-plus years, and how he handled the death of his boyhood hero while also trying to prepare his Central Michigan team for the 2009 season.
Re-building the winning tradition at Tennessee — the team’s current “brick-by-brick” motto comes from that — will be a process, Jones said, that won’t get done in one year or even two.
Building Tennessee back up will come from Jones’ power of three: Discipline, perseverance and leadership.
“Today’s society has a negative connotation of discipline,” he said. “It’s seen as a corrective device, but discipline is really about making tough decisions.”
Jones used a comment from current Louisville basketball head coach Rick Pitino, who just won the national championship two months ago, about kids today. When asked how kids had changed, Pitino simply responded that the kids haven’t changed, the parents have.
“Sometimes, a coach or mentor is the first person to tell these kids ‘no,’” Jones said. “We have to change 17, 18 years of bad habits.”
Perseverance is about being able to adapt to change and thrive. Change, he said, is uncomfortable, but that being able to overcome and survive is a key to success.
The head coach said he brought the Navy SEALs to train one of his Cincinnati teams and will do the same in June with his Volunteer troops.
Finally, Jones said leadership is something you develop every day.
“You don’t become a leader when you’re put in a leadership position,” he said. “You become a leader based on the things you do when no one is looking.”
Jones showed leadership by example during preseason leading up to the 2009 season at Central Michigan.
When his father was admitted to the hospital — Lyle was hospitalized nearly three weeks before dying on Aug. 16, 2009, at the age of 82 — Jones made the two-hour drive from campus to his father’s side and then back every day, never missing a practice or meeting.
Upon his father’s death, Jones asked for the ID band from his wrist. He carries it with him every day.
Nearly a month after Lyle Jones passed away, on Sept. 12, Central Michigan was playing Michigan State in front of an ESPN2 audience. A touchdown pass from Dan LeFevour to Paris Cotton pulled the Chippewas within 27-26, but the conversion pass to Antonio Brown, now in his fourth year with the Pittsburgh Steelers, failed.
Jones said at that moment he felt a calm come over him. Going for the onside kick — “In my three years, we had never kicked one successfully” — Bryan Anderson recovered, and then LeFevour hit on three straight passes to put his team in scoring position.
“Michigan State called time-out to ice our kicker, and in the huddle, I saw a scared team in front of me,” Jones said. “I pulled out my dad’s ID band and told every one of them to touch it. When my kicker was going out, I asked him how he felt, and he said he felt good. I knew he was lying, so I gave him the band and told him to hold it.”
Andrew Aguila booted a 42-yard field goal with three seconds remaining, Jones saying the kick looked like it was tailing off but suddenly was pushed back through the uprights. He credits his dad for making the kick good and giving his team a 29-27 win.
Wins like that are on the horizon for Tennessee, Jones says. It will take some time and a lot of work, but the building has already begun.
“We’re creating and implementing a vision,” Jones said. “I was fired up when I saw a lot of people here with bricks. It might be a cliché, but we’re building a foundation brick-by-brick, Vol-by-Vol. When you’re building something, it’s about a standard of excellence on and off the field. How you represent yourself, how you dress, how you play, the brotherhood you develop in the locker room, the team chemistry are all about accountability. The most important you have is your last name. It’s your personal brand, what you stand for. We have a personal brand at Tennessee. I understand what a responsibility and a privilege it is to be the head coach at the University of Tennessee.”
Jones said the current players and his first recruiting class have taken on the responsibility of putting Tennessee back at the top of the SEC standings and the national rankings.
“This is a process,” he said. “I’ve told our players not to focus on the results, but instead focus on the process.”
It’s a building process — brick-by-brick.
Sports reporter Kevin Weaks can be contacted by email at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 5.6.13