Hood, seniors know Jones is 'the guy'

InsideTennessee keeps you on top of all the latest Tennessee football news. Scroll down to read a story from IT's Riley Blevins on why seniors know Butch Jones is "the guy."

Butch Jones had nothing to do with Daniel Hood's decision to play at Tennessee, but he has everything do with why Hood's proud he did.

The graduated defensive tackle waded through plenty of rough waters during his turbulent time on Rocky Top, starting with playing under three different head coaches.

Hood admits it's not what he envisioned when he first signed on. No, he pictured raising banners and possibly crystal balls.

That ideal seemed a long way away just a year ago – and it still does today – but Hood said he can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

"It was tough at times, real tough. We, the seniors, went through a lot," Hood told InsideTennessee. "But now we know it's all worth it."

Why?

You guessed it – Jones.

Hood is confident to dub Jones "the guy" after knowing him for less than 11 months.

And he's not alone.

Senior after senior voiced their belief in Jones.

"I owe him so much," graduated kicker Michael Palardy said. "He just cares so much and he's so passionate. He'll get it done. Everyone who he's ever coached knows it. He doesn't know how to fail."

Added linebacker Dontavis Sapp: "He's the right guy. I've never met anyone as driven as he is. Everyone is all in."

Hood said he was "all in" after just his first meeting with Jones.

"I don't remember when it was, but we were just talking early on when he was brought in, and it hit me," he said. "I was like, ‘Wow, this guy can sell me anything.' We've brought in the right guy."

Hood has heard phony rah-rah speeches before, but there was something different about the one he got in an office tucked inside the football facility sometime in December.

That speech, he'll tell you, felt genuine.

"He just cares. That's it. He truly cares about you and wants you to succeed," Hood said. "I think that's what sets him apart from others. When you know a person genuinely cares that much, you don't want to let that person down."

That compassion paired with Jones' patented intensity is why Hood doesn't use the word "think" when talking about the future of Tennessee football.

"I know we'll get back to where we belong," he told IT. "I just know it. Coach Jones brings that fire every day and it's in everything he does. He's just amazing."

But the program is bigger than one man. Hood knows that. And he's not worried.

In Hood's words, there are several "Joneses" running around the Neyland-Thompson Sports Complex.

Hood means it as a compliment when he says Tennessee's first-year head coach isn't special.

"Every one they've brought in – from doctor (Joe) Scogin, Dave Hart, all the assistants, just everyone – they're all just as passionate as coach Jones," Hood said. "It's from the top down, not just him. The whole organization, it's just so enthusiastic about not just being great in football, but being great at academics and being great as a person. It's just amazing."

Hood said he "bought in" after a meeting with Jones sometime in December, but be's belief in Tennessee's new direction only grew once January hit.

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That's when strength and conditioning coordinator Dave Lawson entered the picture – Hood's quintessential example of how the program is filled with the "right people."

"Working with coach Lawson, that was really amazing," Hood said. "He doesn't get enough credit. He showed us day after day how much he cared about us as players and wanted up to grow as not players, but men. I've never been more motivated to achieve something. He's just amazing."

Jones, Lawson, Scogin, everyone – Hood dubs them "amazing."

But he didn't just reserve the word for people.

On paper, Tennessee's 2013 season was a disappointment. You wouldn't know it talking to Hood.

"It was the most fun season I've ever had," Hood said. "It's going to be pretty powerful to watch this come together in the next couple years. This year was amazing."

It was the people, however, that Hood said made his final hurrah in Knoxville so fruitful and so "amazing."

And it's people, Hood will tell you, who build champions.


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