Full Exclusive Interview: Vols coach Josh Heupel speaks with WVLT

Newly hired, Vol coach Josh Heupel sat down for an exclusive interview with WVLT Sports Director Rick Russo Wednesday.
Published: Jan. 27, 2021 at 10:40 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Newly hired, Vol coach Josh Heupel sat down for an exclusive interview with WVLT Sports Director Rick Russo Wednesday.

His arrival Wednesday into Knoxville brings an end to the search for a new coach for the university, at least for now, after Jeremy Pruitt was fired, and UT brought on Danny White as the new AD.

Heupel spoke with Russo about the last 24 hours, Tennessee football and the future:

Rick Russo: What’s the last 24 hours been like?

Josh Heupel: It’s been wild and a fast ride. Talking to my wife, communicating to our kids, getting a chance to talk to our former team at UCF. Get on a plane and come down here to big orange country, get a chance to meet so many people here that are so passionate.

RR: You talked about you can’t wait to get past COVID, get back into Neyland Stadium. What does it mean to you to be able to play at Neyland Stadium?

JH: It’s one of the great venues in all of sports. Grew up watching it, always wanted to be a part of it. Had an opportunity to compete here as a coach. The environment is second to none. It’s a great home-field advantage.

RR: It looks to me like family is very important to you.

JH: Absolutely. They’ll be here. They’ll be in our facility. They’ll be a part of our football team, too. I think that’s important for all of our coaches, that their wives and their families are a part of it. I think it’s important that your players see that side of you.

RR: We’re sitting here in the Peyton Manning room at the university. I would imagine establishing a relationship with a football legend is important, as well.

JH: He actually reached out to me as we were getting on the plane.

RR: I would imagine there’s a sense of comfortability with having Danny White here as the AD.

JH: Absolutely. Easy transition, knowing him, his style, his vision, what he’s trying to do. Likewise, he understands me.

RR: Given the investigation and possible sanctions down the road, was there any apprehension on your part at all about taking the position?

JH: I think it’s a speed bump ... in our future. I don’t think it derails us from what we’re trying to accomplish.

RR: For fans who don’t know a lot about you, and they Google you, and they see a 6-4 record last year. Tell them what that was like coming off what was a difficult year for everybody.

JH: Don’t disregard that record. We own it. At the same time, we had 10 opt-outs at the beginning. It’s a unique year with COVID, and those guys all had specific reasons for why they were opting out.

RR: I would imagine, too, part of your message to fans is patience.

JH: Coaches aren’t going to be patient either. There’s a lot of talent inside of that team meeting room. It’s our job as coaches to look at their skillset ... how do we put them in a position to be successful and, ultimately, prepare ourselves to be the type of competitor that you need to be on gameday.

RR: What’s your vision for Tennessee football?

JH: It’s real simple. It’s to go chase and win championships.

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