Some time back in the late 1970’s I was working with my older brother David when we went to a house with a swimming pool in the backyard. The home owners were gone and our work was in their back yard.
There just happened to be a large orange cat floating in the pool and it couldn’t get out so it had drowned. The cat was lifeless and stiff, and while I am more of a dog lover than a cat admirer I still have a soft spot for most animals. This entire event made me feel somewhat sad.
I felt bad for the cat and for the owners of the pool so I wanted to get the cat out. At least I didn’t want the home owners to come home to find a dead cat floating in their pool.
Looking around, I easily found the swimming pool net which was connected to a long pole and scooped out the poor beast.
After getting the cat in the net, I placed it in the yard beside the pool.
I cast aside the pole with the net on it and kept looking at the cat, just wondering what I should do with it.
What happened next was beyond belief. But, I have a witness to verify what I saw.
It was as clear as the curtains opening or closing on a Broadway Play. It started at the bottom of the cat and just slowly moved from the tail all the way up to the head but life slowly crept back in to a previously lifeless body.
The cat was stiff and dead, but eerily as if by magic, it somehow wasn’t dead anymore. As life slowly overtook the cat’s eyes and brain, it suddenly jumped up and shook itself off. When the large orange cat got his bearings, he ran out of that backyard as if he was shot out of a cannon.
I would never see that cat again, but the memory has lasted a lifetime and if I were to magically gain another life like this cat, I’m sure I would still never forget the vision of that dead cat coming back to life.
I’ve told this story over a hundred times and it still amazes me. Hang around me for a little while and you are sure to hear the Dead Cat story or the Flying Dog.
Do cats really have 9 lives? I don’t know, but this big orange cat had at least 2, it seemed.
Similarly, the once proud Tennessee Volunteer football program seemed to be dead in the water a couple of short years ago.
Tennessee has a proud tradition and has produced Peyton Manning, Reggie White, Arian Foster, Jason Witten, Peerless Price, Willie Gault, Stanley Morgan, Heath Shuler, Tee Martin, Condredge Holloway and so many more outstanding players over the years.
But, they had fallen on hard times.
Since the last days of Phil Fulmer, the Tennessee Volunteers haters say that’s what they get for getting rid of one of the most successful coaches in their history who led them to a national title. Supposedly, Fulmer resigned his position, but we’ve all seen this type of thing happen plenty of times at larger football schools like Tennessee.
After Fulmer was gone, the Volunteers hired Lane Kiffin to take over the program. Kiffin was 7-6 during his first season in Knoxville, but when the University of Southern California came calling Kiffin leaped at the opportunity to become the new head coach for the Trojans. Kiffin shunned the SEC school for the bright lights of Los Angeles which quickly backfired on him.
The Vols hired Derek Dooley, the son of Georgia Bulldog legendary coach Vince Dooley, to take over the job.
The Volunteers got progressively worst every year under Dooley going for 6 wins and 7 losses his first year, to 5 wins against 7 losses and then finally they sunk to a meager 4 wins and 7 losses. The Vols actually played a twelfth game his last year as coach in 2012, but they had fired Dooley already by then.
Dooley left the program a mess for somebody else to clean up.
The once proud Tennessee Volunteer football program was lying dead in the water, much like that orange cat.
However, just as I came along at the right time to save that floating cat in the swimming pool, Butch Jones came along to save the Tennessee Volunteers football program.
Butch Jones was previously the head coach at Central Michigan and Cincinnati before being hired by the Tennessee Volunteers. Jones had a 27-13 record at Central Michigan and he was 23-14 at Cincinnati.
SEC fans hate Northerners and Westerners or anyone else that is not one of them, but they don’t mind hiring a coach from those places as long as he wins. Butch Jones is from Michigan, Les Miles from Ohio, Nick Saban is from West Virginia which might as well be in Pennsylvania. Former Gator coach, and top coach in the country, Urban Meyer is from Ohio and so is current Missouri coach Gary Pinkel and Kentucky coach Mark Stoops. New Gator coach Jim McElwain is from Montana. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema is from Illinois and Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen is from Pennsylvania. Kevin Sumlin was born in Alabama, but went to high school in Indianapolis.
While we are at it, a good deal of SEC players are coming out of the North and the West as well.
I am a fan of several SEC schools and I am not blasting them, but some of their fans are pure hypocrites.
It all comes down to winning and each of these ‘outsiders’ was hired to win.
Butch Jones was hired to win and as long as he is winning nobody cares where he grew up.
The Volunteers of Tennessee did not improve much at all during Butch Jones inaugural season with them finishing up 5-7.
One thing that really stands out probably more than anything about Butch Jones is that the man can recruit. His first recruiting class in 2013 was mediocre and ranked in the mid 20s nationally. But, his 2014 recruiting class at Tennessee was off the charts. The Vols brought in 35 recruits and the class was ranked 5th in the country. A large portion of that class played in Butch Jones’ second year as the Tennessee Volunteers improved to 7-6 and beat the Iowa Hawkeyes convincingly in the Tax Slayer Bowl.
Butch Jones and his staff once again worked miracles and wonders when they pulled in the 5th ranked class yet again in the 2015 recruiting cycle.
Butch Jones brought in talent galore the past two seasons and with the emergence of talented Quarterback Joshua Dobbs the Tennessee Volunteers are a team on the move.
They are picked to finish 2nd in the SEC East for the 2015 football season.
I’ve always been a big fan of the Tennessee Volunteers. I know my blog is based on being unbiased, but the Vols are a program that I have always followed and liked. We drive through Knoxville and we like to stop off and drive downtown and walk around the campus. The Volunteers stadium situated right on the Tennessee River with the majestic Smokey Mountains in the background is one of my favorites. We love Knoxville, Nashville, Chattanooga and even a little bit of Memphis. So, it’s been hard to watch the program struggle for the past few years.
I wish I could find the pool net and just scoop up the Volunteer program out of the perils of getting stuck in a pool of the college football world and being unable to get out much as I had saved that cat so many years ago. But, I can’t and Butch Jones is just going to have to do it on his own.
That old cat more than likely really died a few years after I saved him. But, the similarly orange Tennessee Volunteers are just being saved and bouncing back.
Expect big things out of the Tennessee Volunteers for 2015 and beyond.
Oh, and check back soon for my Flying Dog story. It was one of the more funny little events I have ever witnessed.