NEW ORLEANS -- John Chavis isn’t afraid to admit that his exit from Tennessee was a low point in his life.
After spending 14 seasons as the Vols’ defensive coordinator, Chavis was let go when head coach Phil Fulmer was fired in 2008.
“I’d never been let go from a job before,” Chavis said Thursday. “That’s not fun for anybody.”
What hurt the most was that Chavis was saying goodbye to people who had basically become family to him. As he briefly remembered those moments Thursday in front of the media huddled around him inside one of the ballrooms at the New Orleans Marriott at the Convention Center, Chavis got choked up when talking about how much he cared for the players he worked with in Knoxville, Tenn.
“I love them, I really do,” Chavis said before pausing 13 seconds to regain his voice and wipe a few tears from his eyes. “That’s what keeps me going every day is the opportunity to coach great talent and great kids. When I quit feeling that way, then it’s time for somebody else to do it.”
For Chavis, coaching isn’t just about teaching players the proper form in the three technique. It’s about helping to instill life lessons that should carry over into life away from the football field.
Chavis, who has a reputation for being pretty hard on his players at times, showed a very vulnerable side, but also showed just how important leading in all phases of his players’ lives is to him.
“I want to be that example for them,” he said.
“I want to have a relationship with our players off the field as well as on the field.”
Honey Badger wearing 24
In a classic switch-a-roo, LSU cornerbacks Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon switched jerseys in practice Thursday, leaving photographers eager to catch the REAL Honey Badger in action disappointed.
But while the switch was only temporarily, the number does hold some significance to Mathieu, who has truly honored the No. 7 jersey Patrick Peterson left.
The number 24 belongs to New York Jets corner Darrelle Revis, who is just as feared by quarterbacks in the NFL as Mathieu is in college football.
“He can take the best receiver out of the game,” Mathieu said of Revis.
So will “Revis Island” have to share time with “Honey Badger Island?"
“I wouldn’t go as far as saying that,” Mathieu said with a chuckle.
SEC quarterbacks would probably beg to differ.
Claiborne happy with his switch
Jim Thorpe Award winner Morris Claiborne wasn’t always destined for defensive greatness.
He actually began his LSU career as a wide receiver, after accounting for more than 2,000 all-purpose yards on offense and had 30 touchdowns as a senior at Shreveport, La./Fair Park.
But after some coaxing from Peterson, Claiborne began switching between receiver and defensive back before settling in the secondary a week into fall camp.
“One day when I went over, I loved it,” Claiborne said. “I felt like I was making plays over there and I decided to stay and the coaches were cool with it.”
They’re probably a little more than “cool with it” now.
Vlachos not fond of Big Easy memories
Alabama coach Nick Saban left his team with some sobering words about the Crimson Tide’s last trip to New Orleans when he said players wouldn’t remember what they did individually but how the game ended.
That game was a 31-17 loss to Utah in the Allstate Sugar Bowl after the 2008 season. It was a game in which Alabama really failed to show up and it’s something that still eats at players.
Senior center William Vlachos said things have certainly improved for the Tide since then, but there’s still some disgust that creeps up when he thinks about his last trip to the Crescent City.
“That was a long time ago. We’ve won a national championship since then, but it was certainly a disappointing experience,” he said. “As far as the city of New Orleans, for me, I don’t really have a positive outlook on New Orleans because of that.”