When you’re family, well you’re family and all family comes back home at some point.
Phillip Fulmer was the Tennessee Volunteers head coach from 1992-2008. During that time, Tennessee enjoyed one of their most successful periods ever.
Fulmer compiled a record of 152-52 as the Vols head coach. That includes eight bowl wins and the 1998 BCS National Championship.
In 2008, just one year removed from an appearance in the 2007 SEC championship game, Fulmer was forced into retirement, after a 5-7 season, by then athletic director Mike Hamilton.
Understandably, Fulmer hasn’t been back to Haslam Field since he stepped down as head coach.
It’s now been five years and two coaches since Fulmer left the sidelines and the time was finally right for the former Vol great to make his return.
A lot of that has to do with the time that has passed by, but most of Fulmer’s return can be credited to the atmosphere that Butch Jones has created since arriving in Knoxville. It’s beyond refreshing to see Jones reach out to the former Vol coach the way he has. Jones speaks highly of Fulmer saying:
Anytime you have a resource like Coach Fulmer we talk football. We talk a lot of football. Just like with Coach Majors. I want to get as much information as I can, on football, the University of Tennessee. I think it is just, we are all one, it is talking about our tradition, it is talking about our plans for the future and moving this program forward. It is all that and above. It is those relationships with these types of individuals really mean the world to me.
It’s hard to imagine many other new coaches at a major-football program, bringing in a coaching legend just five-years removed from the program. Coaches have egos and a lot of them don’t want to be over-shadowed. Butch Jones, on the other hand, has plans, and he’s delivered, or is delivering, on every single plan he’s laid out.
Fulmer, on the other side of things, appreciates what Butch Jones is doing for the program:
I like the fact that he’s preaching to the kids that we’re not trying to build a tradition, we’re trying to get one back,” he said. “I had the opportunity to speak to the kids and tried to reiterate a little bit of that and what they represent, the great payers and things that have been here that have been so really special to this place.
It’s great to see Fulmer back at Tennessee. He’s a huge part of the Volunteers’ history. Fulmer said “It was a little emotional, being the first time back”, which is understandable considering his success with the program.
You won’t find many men that bleed orange more than Phillip Fulmer.