Football 'a gift' for Cutcliffe

Coming off bypass surgery, David Cutcliffe spent the 2005 football season NOT coaching for the first time in 30 years. He devoted the extra time to his family, leisure activities and watching football games without having a vested interest in them.

Although he enjoyed the fall of 2005, Cutcliffe may be enjoying the fall of 2006 even more. He's coordinating the offense for the high-scoring Tennessee Vols and relishing the unmatched pageantry that is college football.

Heading into today's showdown with Alabama (3:30 kickoff at Neyland Stadium), life is good. Heck, life is GREAT.

"I enjoy the focus part of it," Cutcliffe says. "I look forward to every day, look forward to the people I work with. I enjoy working with these players in practice, and certainly game time is just a thrill. It's a gift I feel to be able to do this."

Cutcliffe has a gift, too – molding productive offenses. Assuming a Vol team that averaged just 18.6 points per game in a 5-6 debacle last year, he has the 2006 squad averaging 35.2 points per game. As a result, the '06 Vols are 5-1, already equalling the 2005 victory total. That's merely a bonus for Cutcliffe, whose enjoyment of the game extends far beyond the numbers on the scoreboard.

"I love winning, and there is no substitute for winning," he said. "But, regardless of what the outcome is, you've got to have your heart and soul in it and be enjoying it. That's what I'm trying to do."

Clearly, David Cutcliffe has his surgically-repaired heart and soul in his job this fall, and that's a key reason Tennessee is ranked No. 7 nationally and playing before a national TV audience this afternoon.

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