KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee’s wide receiver coach Kelsey Pope wants to build a family culture within his position group, but the word “family” means so much more with his first child on the way.
“I treat [the players] just like I would treat my own,” Pope said. “I want to make sure I’m giving everything I can to these guys, and then when I’m at home, I’m giving everything I can to my wife and my family. The special thing about that is, these guys are just as involved with my family as I am with theirs. I had three or four guys drop off their favorite kids’ books like The Cat in the Hat and Dr. Seuss series. For me, that’s heartwarming, because it lets you know the guys that you invested in are willing to invest back in you. So that kind of gives me some pride.”
The fatherly attitude has translated into the way he coaches the players on the field.
“He’s more patient with us,” said Vols senior wide receiver Ramel Keyton. “He would probably snap on Nate if it was last year for something that maybe he did this year, he would be like ‘OK, we have to move at this approach.’ He got a son coming, so he’s taking a different approach on how to get to us, how to teach us, how to make us reach the goal that we want.”
The pride Pope has for his players beams through even when talking about VFLs in the NFL like Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman.
“I think it’s awesome to see but quite frankly, that’s the expectation, right? You hear a lot of people say a lot about the offense and this and that and people make up what they want to in recruiting,” Pope said. “This offense helps guys win in one-on-one matchups. That league is all about one-on-one matchups. So, the things that those guys are doing there is an expectation by everybody in this building, that they’re going to win situations like that. We look forward to seeing those guys. Texting back and forth with those guys between games and between practices is awesome. It’s also good to share with your current guys because they saw those guys, where they started.”
The Vols open up their season on Sept. 2 against Virginia in Nissan Stadium at noon.