Dooley stresses character

Former Tennessee football coach Johnny Majors used to say that "It's easier to recruit character than it is to build it."

The problem is, when you inherit players from previous regimes, you generally have to recruit AND build character.

That may explain why one of Derek Dooley's first acts as Tennessee's new head football coach was the establishment of a "character education program."

Dooley obviously wants to avoid a repeat of 2009, when three freshman football players were arrested and charged with attempted armed robbery outside a campus convenience store. His character education program aims to address a lot more than just thuggery, however.

"I think it's beyond character development," Dooley said. "Think of it as character enhancement outside of football."

The program will include academic support, along with lessons aimed at helping players become more mature, dependable and accountable.

"Character education is a component of teaching behavior, choices, consequences, right and wrong and how to be a good citizen," Dooley said. "Life skills is an important part of that - knowing what a credit card is, knowing the consequences of signing a lease to an apartment.

"Spiritual growth is important. Medical support is important - whether a guy needs psychiatry or rehabilitative work. Mental conditioning is a component, motivation and mentoring ... all of this goes into player enhancement, and I think it's our responsibility in this program to help foster that."

It's apparent that the new head man is determined to develop quality citizens, as well as quality football players.

"This is probably the most important four years of a young man's life," Dooley said. "It's the time he leaves his home, and he thinks he's ready to take on the world. We all know the world will eat 'em alive right now, so we try to take the responsibility of developing 'em for four years. Then, when they leave here, they're better people."

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