University of Tennessee football coach Butch Jones hasn’t even lived in Knoxville for two years yet, but that didn’t stop the readers of Metro Pulse from naming him the Best Knoxvillian in our 2014 Best of Knoxville poll. He didn’t get that title without good reason, though. Since being hired in the wake of former Tennessee head coach and “where’s Rommel?” meme Derek Dooley, Jones and his staff have rebuilt bridges with former players, posted the highest academic performance rate in team history, delivered a thrilling signature win against South Carolina, recruited a top-five recruiting class (the best in recent memory), drew the second-largest crowd to a Tennessee spring game ever (a staggering 68,5480), and achieved the first increase in season-ticket sales since 2005.
Jones managed to do all that while also reinvigorating what has been an increasingly jaded Tennessee fanbase—even without yet being invited to a bowl game, without a winning season, and without breaking losing streaks to rivals Alabama or Florida. In other words, Butch has trended toward success in a very short time, and still has many milestones to chase.
Due to his wild popularity, the head coach’s time is very short and his list of interview requests is very long. But when we delivered his Best of Knoxville plaque to him, we took the opportunity to do a speedy Q&A with him.
Our readers voted you the Best Knoxvillian. How does it feel?
This is very special and a great award and I will treasure forever. It’s all about living in Knoxville. This city is a great, great place. It’s home for me, my wife, and our three kids. We want to be here for a very, very, very long time.
Did you know they gave this award to Knoxville Mayor Rogero last year?
Wow. I’m very humbled. It’s an honor and a privilege.
I don’t know what it was like at Cincinnati, but in Knoxville, your face and name are everywhere. Does it weird you out?
You know, you become so focused on the process and the task at hand that you don’t even see it anymore. You focus so much on the next thing you’ve got to do that you kind of become immune to anything else.
We’ve been talking to the players about what music they listen to to get pumped up for practice and games. Has any of their music rubbed off on you? What pumps you up?
You know what? I like all kinds of music. I like some rap, I like some R&B.
I like old school—like the Gap Band. I’ve also become a big country and western fan. I like Luke Bryan. Obviously, Kenny Chesney has turned into a very very good friend of mine.
Did moving south turn you onto country?
Yes. Before games I listen to all kinds of different stuff, though.