KNOXVILLE, Tenn (WATE) — If you rewind to 2021 at this time, Josh Heupel was getting ready for his first season at Tennessee with Michigan transfer Joe Milton as his starting quarterback.

Milton only played the first two games before Hendon Hooker took over, and the rest was history. Fast forward to 2023, Milton is getting another shot to be Tennessee’s number one quarterback heading into the season.

“He’s the guy that did it the right way,” said Heupel. “When it didn’t go his way early on, he looked at himself, here’s how I need to improve to get better and trusted his coaches, the program. He has put himself in a position to play at a really high level because of the work ethic that he’s had inside of our program.”

Joe Milton has said he always prepared as though he was the starting quarterback during his time on Rocky Top, even when Hooker was getting the first-team snaps.

“Really, (since) the back half that first season, he’s become very mature and who he is, what he’s about, how he’s gonna work, how he’s gonna impact his teammates. It’s not just going into the Orange Bowl. He’s been that guy for a long time inside of our program.”

Milton’s journey back to a starting quarterback comes full circle as Tennessee takes on Virginia Sept. 2 at Nissan Stadium. You can watch the game on WATE.