Tee Martin once chose Lane Kiffin’s USC Trojans over Butch Jones and Tennessee football. Now, he chose Jeremy Pruitt’s Volunteers over the Ole Miss Rebels.
Don’t forget what happened in 2013. After Tennessee football hired Butch Jones, he made a public spectacle about potentially hiring Tee Martin, flying him in to personally meet with him. This was just for him to be a position coach, which he was as wide receivers coach for Lane Kiffin, then head coach of the USC Trojans at the time.
Remember, Kiffin was on the hot seat after a disappointing 2012 season. Martin was beloved on Rocky Top as the national championship winning quarterback. And what did he do? He rejected the Vols, stating he made a commitment to the USC players.
That made no sense, because the year before, Martin bolted the Kentucky Wildcats for USC after only two season. And before that, he bolted the New Mexico Lobos for Kentucky after only one season. So it was odd for him to say things like commitment to USC players.
The situation brought a bit of slightly bad blood between Martin and Vol fans. But now, fast-forward to this year. Jeremy Pruitt was able to lure Martin to Tennessee football as a wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator.
Kiffin is now with the Ole Miss Rebels. He is not on the hot seat and in a honeymoon says. And according to Jimmy Hyams on Twitter, Martin rejected a role to be his offensive coordinator in Knoxville, a promotion from the job he has on Rocky Top now.
So what changed? In 2013, Martin chose the same status with an under-fire Kiffin over the Vols. Now, he is choosing a lesser status with the Vols over a Kiffin still in the honeymoon phase. That’s a pretty big jump.
We can only speculate that Martin has more respect for Pruitt than Jones. Honestly, piling on Jones is getting old at this point. But that is the only thing that would explain the reversal of one of Tennessee football’s most beloved legends.
Now there is the chance that he just enjoyed the California lifestyle. But as a guy who grew up in Alabama, went to school in Tennessee and coached high school ball in Georgia, that doesn’t seem to be the case either.
Again, it comes back to Pruitt vs. Jones. Martin, looking back, clearly made the right decision to avoid being a member of Jones’s staff. After all, he was promoted to offensive coordinator at USC, and despite losing his job there, he did enough to build up a resume that would make other people want him.
Had he chosen to join Jones’s staff, he either would’ve been sabotaged by Jones in some way or become part of an unraveling program that wrecked his potential rise to the top. For Martin to be able to see that, though, must mean he has a solid instinct on what coaches are building.
In fact, that seems to be what Martin realizes best. He bolted New Mexico just before Mike Locksley would come undone. The year after he bolted Kentucky, Joker Phillips was fired. Then he managed to stay on staff after Kiffin was let go.
Simply put, Martin knows a program on the rise when he sees it, regardless of loyalty. He clearly sees it with Tennessee football, and that’s great news for Vol fans. It’s the only way to explain why he decided to stay in a lesser role.