KNOXVILLE - Long before he went by "Coach" at the University of Tennessee, Ralph Weekly spent decades in the military.
Many of those years he was a special agent.
Weekly spent 24 years in the Air Force and commanded the Air Force Office of Special Investigation Detachment at McChord Air Force Base in Washington.
"I spent a lot of time overseas, spent some tours in Vietnam. And just a great career," the Tennessee co-head coach said.
Weekly earned a shadow box full of honors during his time in the military, including a Bronze Star medal.
"I can tell you what I earned it for. I can't tell you any exact things about that," Weekly said. "I was an intelligence office in the Air Force and I was assigned to the 3rd Marine Amphibious Force at China Beach, Vietnam ,and for different operations we did there with the Marines and counterintelligence work. That's how I got that award."
Weekly joined the All-Air Force softball team while he was in the service and later coached the team as well as the All-Armed Forces team.
"It's the best 10 players in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Marines, and you get some really big guys that can really play well," said the veteran.
Little did he know that would be the beginning of a long and successful career coaching softball.
Weekly was coaching a tournament when he was spotted by Frosty Westering, a former Marine and then-head football coach at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash. Westering offered Weekly a job as an assistant football coach after he retired from the Air Force. Weekly took him up on the offer.
When Weekly was later offered the head softball gig, he was reluctant to take it.
"I said, Well, I'll tell you the truth, I've never coached women before and don't know much about it. And I'm not sure, I think I'm pretty busy right now with football. And he said, Well, we'll give you a thousand dollars more a month if you take the team. I said, Where do I sign?" Weekly said.
Putting in the same fundamentals he did with the military teams, it didn't take long for Weekly to find success. After just two years, the Lutes won the national championship. They were runners up in 1990 and won it all again in 1992.
The national championship in 1992 gave Weekly the opportunity to coach the Olympic gold medal softball team in 1992 and 2000.
"I'm a person who loves my country anyhow. And having served my country, then to be able to go and put USA across the chest, what a great thrill," said Weekly, who admitted that's been the highlight of his career so far. "But I'm hoping to have another highlight here. I want to have a national championship at Tennessee. We've come close. It's going to happen soon."
A national title might be the only thing Weekly hasn't checked off his list of accomplishments, but he'll still be satisfied without one.
"With competition the way it is today, if we win it that's great. If we don't I'll still be proud of how many lives hopefully we've touched, and that's what it's all about."
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