Aug. 9, 2009
Josh Pate, UT Sports Information
When Lane Kiffin walked to the podium, a hush fell on the room. Dozens of cameras turned on. Recorders clicked. Eyes were on Kiffin.
Although he was in slacks and a white collared shirt instead of his usual work attire of shorts and a long-sleeved T-shirt, Sunday was still business for Kiffin and staff.
"They're going non-stop," Kiffin said. "Half of them sleep in [the office]. It's just a competitive atmosphere. We're always trying to find a way to be better than somebody else and we challenge them with that all the time: Your job as a position coach is to have the best position group on this whole team. I've been so impressed with our staff. "
The professional atmosphere is evident from the resumes. Four of the assistant coaches were in the NFL last year. And it's all carried over to the players.
"We're here to work," said senior defensive tackle Dan Williams. "Once we're on the practice field, it's all business. We know where we want to be and Coach has given us the plan to get there. We joke around sometimes, but once we're on the field it's all business."
Make no mistake: this isn't all suits and ties when it comes to getting work done. Sunday's Media Day gave players a chance to get in front of the camera - some for the first time - and crack jokes. One group even serenaded a video camera with a Temptations tune.
"It's been great," said junior defensive back Brent Vinson. "Even though we're at camp, the coaches are making it as fun as possible. We're having a good time. The guys are out there competing on offense and defense. We're out there bonding. You can feel the love with the players. We're just so excited to get out there and play."
Despite being suited up, pads and all, no hitting was going on Sunday. It was interviews, pictures and a chance to see the team up close. But for the freshmen, it was also a chance to peek into the world in which they'll be living for the next four years - one in which eyes will be watching.
"You've got to have respect for your peers because you never know," said freshman running back David Oku of the pressure of being in the spotlight. "You're not signing something for one of these kids or adults. If somebody asks for your autograph and you say no, I don't give autographs - you never know, you could meet that guy in a job interview or trying to get an internship."
Added Williams: "Media Day is good for the fans. They want to know what's going on. I don't have any problems answering questions because they want to know how 55 [his number] is like outside of football."
So for one day this fall, the pads were just for pictures. No hitting went on. No balls were thrown. No field goals were kicked. Call it a rest period. Because on Monday, two-a-days begin.
"We know when it's time for business and we know when it's time to have a good time," Vinson said. "Coach is helping a lot of guys mature quickly as far as handling our business and getting stuff done, especially the freshmen. It's a great day to be a Vol."