Butch Jones visits Orange Grove in Chattanooga
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Butch Jones is always looking to give back at places with a message and a mission similar to his.
The first-year Tennessee head football coach said the Orange Grove Center in Chattanooga is one of those places.
Jones was the featured speaker Tuesday afternoon at "A Lunch for Champions," which serves as one of the biggest annual fundraisers and celebrations for the center that helps students with special needs.
Jones said a new coach is obviously going to stay busy on the meet-and-greet tour in the off-season, but he's always interested in visiting places that truly make a difference.
"The biggest thing (in speaking engagements) is aligning yourself with people that have the same standards and expectations," Jones said. "Obviously being here today, they stand for the same thing we stand for, so to be here and maybe share that message is big.
"Any chance you get to sell the Tennessee brand is big, but it's more about giving back. We're the state institution, so it's important to give back if we have a few free minutes. I'm always looking forward to that."
Jones shared his thoughts on what it takes to be a champion and commended the Orange Grove staff and it's students for always striving to "reach their full potential" and understanding that anything is possible.
"This is what it's all about. Taking people and raising them, teaching them and mentoring them," Jones said. "We're raising the future, and I think it's important to thank people who give of their time to do work like that."
The Vols' coach is in week two of what will likely be about a month-long tour of speaking engagements. He'll be back in Chattanooga next Thursday for the Big Orange Caravan, and will also speak in Cleveland in early June.
While he's away, his team will be working on its own to improve since coaches are not allowed contact with players during summer conditioning. However, Jones feels confident that the program is in good hands and on the right track with its voted captains and leaders.
"We spent so much time in our development program to develop leaders, and now we've turned the team over to those leaders," Jones said. "They're a player-led football team in the summer, and I'm excited to see the finished product when we come back in August.
"Our players are eager and they've answered every challenge we've thrown at them. Now we'll see how they continue to develop in the summer, which is a great opportunity for the team to grow closer together."