Jan. 16, 2013
By Brian Rice
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- For a little more than two years, former Vol Terry Fair spent his afternoons critiquing the performances of the Tennessee football team to a wide-ranging Knoxville radio audience. Now, while the basic elements of his job remain the same, he critiques to a much more focused audience.
Head coach Butch Jones added Fair to his first Volunteer staff as a defensive quality control coach earlier this month, bringing the two-time All-SEC selection and 1998 NFL first-round draft pick back into the fold at UT.
"It was rough being on the radio every day," Fair said. "The calls and the negativity that you had to talk about on a day-to-day basis was not what I envisioned when I went in to radio. This being my alma mater, those things really hurt you as a former player. As former players, we always talk about that and we want to see it get back to prominence."
Now, Fair has the opportunity to help bring the program back to the heights he reached while suiting up for the orange and white.
"This is home for me being on this side," Fair said of his opportunity. "I've always envisioned myself being a coach, if not at the University of Tennessee then somewhere else. I am very appreciative of Coach Jones and the opportunity to come learn under him and his staff. You are talking about a man that is full of vision, is passionate about everything and where we have been as a program."
As a defensive back at Tennessee, Fair saw his teams go a combined 40-9 from 1994-97, including three bowl victories and the 1997 SEC Championship. He was named to the SEC All-Freshman team in 1994 and All-SEC in 1996 and 1997 and finished his Vol career with 11 interceptions.
Fair joined Peyton Manning and Marcus Nash as one of three Vols selected in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft, the second UT player off the board with the 20th pick to the Detroit Lions. As a rookie, fair picked up NFL All-Rookie Team and All-Pro honors and was an alternate for the Pro Bowl.
After a six-year NFL career with the Lions, Carolina Panthers and St. Louis Rams, Fair got his first shot at coaching at Phoenix College, a junior college in his home state of Arizona. He spent three years at PC, cementing what he wanted his football future to be. But he needed one final step back in Knoxville to move on with his coaching career.
"One of the reasons I came back here to finish my degree was to be able to further my coaching career," Fair said. "It just so happened that I ended up in the media."
Fair appeared on various radio and television shows in the Knoxville area while completing his UT degree through the UT Athletic Department's Renewing Academic Commitment Program that allows former student athletes that leave school for the professional ranks prior to completing work on a degree to return to campus. Fair walked across the stage with his degree in psychology in 2010.
The life lessons on sports and academics are just some of the things Fair looks forward to sharing with the current Vol football team, who gave him a standing ovation when introduced at his first team meeting.
"It was pretty cool," Fair said of the welcome from the team. "I knew some of these guys previously from having a mic in my hand. I look forward to working with them and giving back all that I have on and off the field and giving them life lessons that I've learned over the years throughout my professional and college careers."
Even with the desire he had to return to the gridiron, there was still one hurdle Fair had to clear before hanging up his headphones and taking his final radio call. The Fair family, including his wife Sherlone and his three children, Herandre, Delon and Ariyah had to sign off on the move. Once they gave the seal of approval, Fair was ready to make his move.
"To have the opportunity now, when she said she was on board," Fair said. "It gave me everything I needed to go out and pursue it 100%."