Tennessee football coach Butch Jones let it be known Tuesday that he has worked hard to establish a better relationship with the Vols' former players than two of his predecessors did.
Jones, who spoke to the Nashville Sports Council, was responding to questions about former players who vented their frustration this weekend with Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley while praising Jones for making them feel like they are still a part of the program.
"It's all about our former players; they're the ones that kind of built the program with their sweat equity," Jones said. "It's all about them. They are the program."
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Head Coach Butch Jones talks about VFLs.
Jones had plenty of work to do in repairing the relationship with some of the former Vols, such as linebacker Al Wilson, who said, "I don't even want to say the names of the two guys who were there between coach (Phillip) Fulmer and coach Jones. They don't deserve to have their names mentioned with Tennessee football."
Former Battle Ground Academy standout Troy Fleming, was at least willing to mention Dooley's name, sort of.
"The biggest thing about coach Jones is he actually does his job. Unlike that guy we call Derek Doolittle, who really did very little," Fleming said.
Fleming also said he appreciated the way Jones made him feel like he was still part of the program.
"With coach Jones, when you walk into the facility now it's like you never left," he said.
Jones has encouraged former players this summer to return to campus and get acquainted with the current players and staff.
"(Monday) was a great day because we welcomed Chad Clifton back; it's been a number of years since he's been in our building and he came in with his family," Jones said. "It was good to be able to spend time with him. Earlier this summer Peyton Manning came back along with Eric Berry, Jason Witten and Albert Haynesworth."
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Video from Butch Jones's visit to Nashville. 7-29-14
Haynesworth, a defensive end who played for the Titans from 2002-2008, introduced himself to some of the players.
"There was one day when I looked down there and our entire defensive line is in the indoor facility and it's Albert holding court," Jones said.
Jones said he was glad so many former players have been willing to stick with the program even after feeling snubbed in recent years.
"To be able to have these former players come back is great, and that's the power of Tennessee," Jones said. "That's not only the great tradition we have, but also the affinity that our former players have for the Tennessee Vols and our football family."
Jones said the program also benefits from players when they show their passion for the Vols in other ways like when Manning danced Monday as 'Rocky Top' blared from the speakers at the Broncos practice field.
"I thought that was outstanding," Jones said. "It's exciting to see the excitement when 'Rocky Top' is playing. It's great and it was another illustration to our players of the magnitude and the relevance which they represent each and every day."
Jones did a bit of illustrating himself when he broke into a dance with his players during spring practice.
He was asked Tuesday if he had better steps than Manning.
"I think we both need lessons," Jones said.