Notes neatly written on various forms of paper, written in Sharpie thickness scatter about the desk of Butch Jones.
The everyday desire to improve by 1-percent yields the scribbling of a thought that may could be beneficial to Tennessee football.
When he’s away from the Anderson Training Center, Jones must borrow the “CEO” title from his senior quarterback Joshua Dobbs to be the face of things.
Whether it’s speaking of “minute by minute,” the “critical” aspects of football or building a program “brick by brick,” the 48-year-old from Saugatuck, Michigan, has his share of Butch-isms.
Here’s what the fourth-year head man had to say in response to questions all over the map, ranging from his emotions to death threats and beyond.
InsideTennessee: Not to hit you hard out of the gate, but why do you still do what you do? I know you probably have family financial security. Why do this?
Butch Jones: With anything in life, you have to have a passion for what you do. Everything is centered on a passion and what makes you. I have a passion for coaching football. I have a passion for Tennessee football. I have a passion for building a program. I have a passion for our players. Everything is about the players. I got in it to help them, to help them become the best possible version of them that they can be. It's more than just football development. It’s personal growth and development. Some of the more rewarding days are when a young man calls you and says, ‘Coach, thank you. I’m a CEO.’ Or, ‘I’m a police officer.’ Or, ‘I’m a firefighter.’ Or, ‘I’m a doctor and couldn't have done it without you.’ That's why you do those things — it's to help kids grow into men and adulthood and see them grow and mature.
I think also from a competitive standpoint, I feel I have the best job in the country and I love coming to work every day. But, again, with anything you do it stems first and foremost from a love for it and a passion but also an internal drive to be the best version of you possible each and every day. What are you doing to continue to grow? To improve? To never become stagnant? It's all about constant, never-ending improvement, trying to be the best that you can be, the best at your responsibilities on a daily basis.
IT: What’s your favorite memory from coaching? I've asked a lot of your guys this, whether it's a guy figuring out life somewhere down the road or saying he used a principle that he learned under a coach that he applied later in life and it just clicked. Just something when you look back you say, ‘Wow, that was a special moment.’
Jones: You know there's a lot of them, but I think just seeing individuals grow and mature as individuals but also seeing teams grow and mature and come together. You see changes, you see maturity, you see growth. The definition of coaching is creating positive change. When you're able to see that, I think the relationships that you build… I've always said that we are not in it for a 3-5-year relationship. When you enter the coaching profession, you are in it to grow and develop relationships that last a lifetime. I would say it's all about the relationships. Sure, you remember the wins but really you remember the losses more than you remember the wins. But I think it's just being a part of teams and and being a part of individuals and seeing them grow and develop and mature.
IT: When was the last time you cried?
Jones: Last time I cried?
IT: For any reason, whether it was happiness or something really tugged at you?
Jones: I'd say a couple weeks ago. I'm an emotional person and something brought back memories of my father. I kind of became choked up and got that emotion out.
IT: What’s it like — and I asked you a little about this at a presser last year — but how tough is it doing what you do when you lose to a Georgia, a Florida or an Alabama with not just the expectations that come with being here — I know they’re astronomical, they’re unapproachable at times — but these people get so into the rivalries, the arguments on the message boards and if they lose it's like, ‘I’ve got to hear this for 365 days, again.’ They want to take it out on somebody, whether it's a death threat or something like that. How do you deal with all that and when someone reaches out to one of your sons and says something hateful on Twitter?
Jones: Well, it's tough and as long as it's geared toward me I can handle it. That’s all part of the position of being the head football coach. I understand that everything falls upon me. That's one of the challenges, that's one of the things that I love about that. I love that responsibility. But, I'll never tolerate it filtering through to our individual players on our football team, individual members of our coaching staff or my family or my family members.
Our fans have been great. They’re very, very passionate, and I understand the responsibility that comes with it but also that's why we take a bunker mentality. We can only control what we can control. I will tell you this, there isn't anyone that wants to win more than myself and our coaching staff and our players. We are going to put everything into it. We invest in it each and every minute of the day. But also in football you play the game and you’ve got to learn from those experiences. You've got to move on to the next opponent. I feel it's my responsibility to take on those items, those things and not let it affect anyone else and that's part of the responsibility. But like I said, our fans have been great. The expectations externally will never be greater than my expectations internally upon myself and our football program.
Keep it locked to InsideTennessee for more from the conversation with Butch Jones. Take a look at last year's conversation with the head man by clicking here.