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An evening with Monte out west
Kiffin, UT defensive guru, speaks to packed house to benefit Childhelp

Sharing his Super Bowl XXXVII championship ring with various female fans who posed for a picture, Monte Kiffin’s overall goal was to share his energy and enthusiasm for Tennessee Volunteers football with fans in the Farragut area.

And, most importantly, raise money for Childhelp Tennessee in its efforts to rescue abused children and place them into foster homes.

Kiffin, new defensive coordinator at UT and father of head coach Lane Kiffin, was featured speaker during “An Evening With Monte Kiffin” wine dinner held at Flemings Steakhouse, Parkside Drive, Sunday evening, June 7. The event featured wines from David Purvis, owner of Farragut Wine & Spirits, Farragut. Volunteer fans paid $200 per seat.

During a roughly 30-minute address and question-and-answer session, Monte said Lane “had to recruit me” away from Tampa Bay, his most recent successful stop during a 43-year coaching career. where Kiffin’s “Tampa Cover 2 defense” was vital toward winning a Super Bowl in 2003. “It was a good situation.”

On the college level, Kiffin has coached defense under legendary national championship coaches Bob Daveney and Tom Osborne (Nebraska) and Lou Holtz (Arkansas).

Referencing UT Lady Vols basketball head coach Pat Summitt reaching the 1,000 games won plateau last season, Monte said he told Lane, winless as a college head coach, “If you catch her I won’t be around.”

Monte said he asked Lane, “have you checked your schedule?” at UT in reference to the tough 2009 slate.

About Lane Kiffin interviewing for a possible head coaching job at the University of Washington, Monte Kiffin said he told his son, “‘I’m out’” if you’re hired there because “‘Seattle’s too far.’”

Also interviewing at Syracuse University, Lane Kiffin wouldn’t have had Monte by his side there either. A linebackers coach at nearby Buffalo with the NFL’s Bills in the mid-1980s, Monte Kiffin said, “the sun doesn’t shine in Buffalo.”

Having been to Knoxville just one time before his son’s hiring as head coach, Monte Kiffin said about the Knox County/East Tennessee area, “it exceeded my expectations … I love it here.

“You people are great fans, a great atmosphere,” adding he was especially impressed by the Orange and White Game “Vol Walk” crowd. “I’m so excited.”

Kiffin said his son expressed excitement and surprise when proclaiming a local sports radio network “‘talks football from 6 a.m. to 10 at night.’”

The Kiffins also discovered, Monte added, “there are two seasons here, football season and recruiting season.”

The new Vols defensive boss then threw out some red meat.

“You come here, you’re going to be a better football player,” he said.

How good? Kiffin used Alabama as a comparison, saying if a “four- or five-star” rated athlete played for the Crimson Tide, they may go in the first couple rounds of the National Football League draft.

But if that same player came to UT, “you’re going in the top 10.”

Kiffin, however, also was direct. “We need more players,” he said. “We won’t play perfect, but we’ll play hard, play together. No prima donnas on our team. Win together, lose together.”

Among his defenders, Kiffin cited junior starting linebacker Nick Reveiz, a walk-on from Farragut High School.

“He had a good spring,” Kiffin said. “He’s listed at 5-[foot]-9, but I said, ‘no, Nick, you’re 5-8.”

Kiffin said Eric Berry, UT All-American safety, “probably won’t be here next year” to be drafted into the NFL. “A great leader. … He shows up every day.”

Confident the Vols offense will “do a good job,” though adding the team needs “speed at wide receiver” among other concerns, Kiffin said it’s not his son’s plan to rely on junior college transfers. However, “we may need some junior college players to fill in,” he added.

Kiffin spoke glowingly of a handful of fellow assistant coaches, among them recruiting coordinator, assistatn head coach and former Ole Miss boss Ed Orgeron.

Saying he spoke to second-year UM Rebels head coach Houston Nutt, Kiffin said he relayed a Nutt message back to Orgeron: “‘be sure to thank coach Orgeron for leaving me so much talent.’”

Kiffin said the first rule of coaching is getting players to “show up,” adding, “a lot of [UT] players are showing up right now.

“When you’re coaching, you gotta care about the players,” he added. “You gotta be a great teacher. … Have a great passion for coaching. … Coach ’em hard.”

About coaches serving under him, Kiffin said, “I may not be the easiest coach to play for, but I’m fair,” adding he demands all his assistants “must know how to coach, not just recruit. And be a good listener.”

Saying he was a two-way “265-pound” lineman at the University of Nebraska (1959-63), Kiffin ended his address with a joke recalling how he “bragged” about Nebraska’s academic reputation around some of his Tampa Bay defensive players. Kiffin said he asked them, “What does the ‘N’ on the Nebraska helmet stand for?’”

With no response, Kiffin said he replied: ‘”kNowledge.’”

The audience let out its biggest laugh of the night.

Monte Kiffin also said Orgeron was instrumental in landing Vols recruit Jansen Jackson from ———. “He was locked up to L-S-U, but we got him,” he said.

Kiffin then said one of the richest rewards of coaching is having a former player come back years later and say, “Coach Kiffin, thanks for making me a better player.”


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