Jay Graham walked into his first staff meeting as an assistant coach at UT-Martin on July 1 and had a case of déjà vu.
Sitting around the table in the staff room were passing game coordinator and quarterback coach Marcus Satterfield, and running game coordinator and offensive line coach Geep Wade. Head coach Jason Simpson was sitting at the head of the table with the remote control to a VCR within reach. Graham, hired to coach receivers and serve as the Skyhawks’ new recruiting coordinator, was no stranger to his new colleagues.
Graham was drafted in 1997 by the Baltimore Ravens and played in the NFL for five years with stops in Seattle and Green Bay. His professional playing career ended after a stint in the Canadian Football League with the Montreal Alouettes. The North Carolina native returned to his alma mater, Tennessee, in 2005, where he served as a graduate assistant. That’s where Graham, the Vols’ sixth all-time leading rusher, met Satterfield, Wade and UT-Martin cornerbacks coach Shep Campbell.
”When I walked into that staff room, I thought I was back in that GA room in Knoxville, working late trying to finish making copies and getting the (play) cards ready,” Graham said.
UT-Martin’s Simpson was hired at head coach in December 2005. He had to put his staff together quickly and hit the recruiting trail because the national signing day was early in February. One of Simpson’s first hires was Wade.
Wade was an offensive lineman at Chattanooga from 1999-2001. His first coaching job was at his alma mater in 2002. He spent one year at Mars Hill and then accepted a graduate assistantship at Tennessee. He worked with Vols coaches Randy Sanders and Greg Adkins from 2004 through the 2005 season and was part of the staff that led the Vols to the SEC Eastern Division championship and the 2005 Cotton Bowl victory over Texas A&M.
”Being there you learn all football,” Wade said. “I learned what I call the intricacies of the game. I learned a lot.”
The second-year assistant said he brought what he learned across the state to the Skyhawks.
“I use their system and their calls,” Wade said.
Not long after Wade joined the staff, Simpson hired Campbell to help defensive coordinator and assistant head coach Chris Boone with the Skyhawk cornerbacks. Campbell was a defensive grad assistant at Tennessee for the 2005 season. He worked with Vols’ associate head coach and defensive coordinator John Chavis and defensive backs coach Larry Slade.
”I spent a lot of time working with the secondary and the scout teams,” Campbell said. He also learned a lot about technique and organization, two things he continues to take advantage of at UT-Martin.
”I use a lot of the techniques I learned at UT every day,” Campbell said. “I use the same man-to-man coverage that coach Slade taught me and everything he showed me about the way cornerbacks bail.”
Campbell, also in his second season at UT-Martin, has other SEC influences he continues to use. He mixes the Tennessee techniques with some of the things his father, Louis, taught him. Campbell’s father began his coaching career as an assistant for the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant at Alabama in 1973 and was an assistant on Houston Nutt’s 2006 staff at Arkansas.
Right before the 2006 fall camp opened, Simpson hired yet another former Tennessee graduate assistant in Satterfield.
Satterfield, who played wide receiver at East Tennessee State from 1995-98, was at Tennessee from the spring of 2002 to the spring of 2004.
”I was an offensive GA and I learned a ton of football from Randy Sanders,” Satterfield said. “I was under Coach Sanders’ tutelage and he really took an interest in me. One of the things I pull from my experience at Tennessee is the relationship that was formed with him.”
Sanders was quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator for the Vols from 1999-2005 and had been on the staff in some capacity since his playing UT playing days in the 1980s. Sanders currently serves as the quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator for Rich Brooks at Kentucky.
”Almost all the drills I use are what I learned from Sanders,” Satterfield said. “He honed execution and game management for all of our quarterbacks. The mindset I have taken here is similar to his. We have to take care of the football, execute and manage the game.”
This past July, Simpson had to replace his receivers coach. Wade, Campbell and Satterfield knew Graham, and they knew he wanted to be closer to his family in North Carolina. After trying to hire another former Tennessee player, Tee Martin, Simpson opted to offer Graham the job.
Graham played for the Vols from 1993-96, serving as a team captain in 1996. He rushed for 2,609 yards and is second on the Vols all-time list with 540 carries and 25 touchdowns.
Immediately following his pro career, Graham returned to Knoxville and served as an offensive graduate assistant for the 2005 season.
“The thing I admired the most was the organization and how they did it the Tennessee way, from practice plans to game plans,” Graham said. “I helped with the running backs, but I helped with things for every position.”
Like Wade, Campbell and Satterfield, Graham continues to use what he learned at Tennessee.
”A lot of the things I learned there are the way we do things here, from the way we call defenses even to the way we script a game sometimes,”said Graham, who also was on staff for the 2005 Cotton Bowl. “It was nice to see all that goes into preparing for a bowl game. The toughest thing for me as a GA at Tennessee was I had to prove myself more on the field and in the classroom because I played there.”
The Skyhawks are coming off the first OVC championship in school history and a 9-3 finish to 2006. UT-Martin opens 2007 Saturday at Southern Miss, the same team that next weekend travels to Knoxville for the Vols’ home opener.
One person who will keep an eye on the Skyhawks and their upcoming fortunes is Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer.
”I’m really proud of the group of guys who have gathered there at UT Martin,” Fulmer said. “They are outstanding young coaches and outstanding people.
”With last season’s results, they obviously have helped UT Martin get on a great track, and they and the team have a very bright future. We certainly are going to keep track of those four. You never know; some of them may get to be Volunteers one day.”... read the rest of the story by Subscribing now.