Jeremy Pruitt’s unusual path to Tennessee

Jeremy Pruitt didn’t take the usual road to become a head coach in the SEC.

Tennessee finally found its man to take over the football program after an exhausting search, and he goes by the name of Jeremy Pruitt. The Alabama defensive coordinator was introduced as the 26th head coach of Tennessee football by Chancellor Beverly Davenport and Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer on Thursday afternoon.

“I’m honored and humbled to be recognized as the head football coach at the University of Tennessee,” said Pruitt during his introductory press conference. “There was a time and place when this university was feared among SEC teams. My goal as the head football coach at Tennessee is to get us back to that point.”

This may be Pruitt’s first head coaching job, but he is no stranger to success. In fact, he has registered four national championships in his time as a defense coordinator at the college level.

Pruitt began his coaching career in 1997 as a grad assistant for Alabama, followed by nine years of coaching high school football. When Nick Saban was hired as head coach at Alabama in 2007, Pruitt followed and worked his way up the chain to coaching the defensive backs. In 2013, Pruitt took a job as the defensive coordinator of Florida State, and then logged two seasons at Georgia as defensive coordinator before returning to Alabama in 2016.

“I’ve learned many things from Coach Saban. I started from ground zero his first year at Alabama, and I’ve worked for him in three different capacities,” Pruitt said. “I’ve learned as much from my dad as I have from any of them.”

Pruitt said his interest in coaching football occurred at the age of three, when he grew up around his father, who is a high school football coach in his hometown. “My dad was dragging me around to the fieldhouse all the time so I went around with him,” said Pruitt. He followed his father’s footsteps by coaching football at one of the most decorated high school programs in the country.

Serving as a defensive coordinator under head coach Rush Propst from 2004-06 at Hoover High School, Pruitt notched two state championships. Pruitt made frequent appearances on the MTV show – Two-A-Days – as a defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator.

“I’m very thankful that I have an opportunity to stand here today,” Pruitt said. “For me being a high school football coach, I think this should inspire high school coaches across the country. If you do a good job and you keep working, you have an opportunity to move up.”

Things have moved quite quickly for Pruitt, especially since he is just 13 years removed from being a third-grade teacher in Fort Payne, AL. Pruitt was a kindergarten teacher to third grade physical education teacher for three years at an elementary school.

“I met Jeremy before today, and he told me that he started his career in a kindergarten to third-grade classroom, and that really clinched it for me,” said Davenport. “I knew he was a teacher, and I knew that at the heart of any great teacher was the concern for our students’ success, and I so appreciate that.”

Pruitt has quickly moved up in the chain of command in the sport of football, and it all started at the fieldhouse with his father as a child in Alabama. Things have sped by for Pruitt, from being a third-grade teacher just over a decade ago, to the head coach of Tennessee football in 2017.

“In this business if you stop, everybody is going to go right by you,” said Pruitt.

Edited by Ben McKee

Photo courtesy of Brad Matthews