Jeremy Pruitt is now the head football coach of the Tennessee Volunteers. But he has taken quite a path to get here.
Pruitt’s career path looks a little different than most SEC head coaches, with what many might refer to as a “meteoric rise” in the past decade or so.
Despite being born in Rainsville, Ala. and growing up a fan of the Crimson Tide, Pruitt actually began his college football playing career at Middle Tennessee State in 1993. However, after two years, Pruitt was afforded a scholarship to his childhood favorite team and finished his degree and football career at the University of Alabama.
Knowing he wanted to be a football coach from the time he was a child, Pruitt became a graduate assistant at Alabama in 1997 before going to be an assistant on his father’s coaching staff at Plainview High School in 1998. Pruitt also went with his father to Fort Payne High School in 2001 and he worked as an elementary school P.E. teacher to be able to coach on the football team. During his introductory press conference on Thursday, Pruitt said, “I taught everybody from 2001-2004 how to tie his shoes in the city of Fort Payne, Alabama. I started suggesting velcro."
In 2004, Pruitt received the opportunity to coach at Hoover High School under five-time Alabama state champion head coach Rush Propst. Pruitt won two state championships at Hoover as defensive coordinator and his time there was even chronicled on the MTV show Two-A-Days.
Pruitt has said multiple times that he never envisioned himself as a college coach nor did he even necessarily want to be one. He just wanted to coach high school football like his father. But in 2007, Pruitt was offered a spot on Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama - a position he could not refuse. Since then, Pruitt’s abilities as a coach have become apparent on a national stage and his ascent has been swift.
After winning three national championships as a player development staff member and then the defensive backs coach at Alabama, Pruitt was hired by Jimbo Fisher as Florida State’s defensive coordinator in 2013. All Pruitt did in his one year at Florida State was command a defense which finished second in the country in total defense and which had 10 of its 11 starters drafted to the NFL - all en route to a national championship.
Pruitt left Florida State after just one year to become the defensive coordinator at Georgia under Mark Richt, where he stayed for two years before UGA and RIcht parted ways following the 2015 season. But as fate would have it, Georgia hired then-Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart to fill its head coaching position, leaving open the defensive coordinator position at Pruitt’s alma mater.
Following the departure of Smart, Nick Saban said of Pruitt, "There was no doubt who I was going to hire. Didn't interview anybody. Didn't talk to anybody. Just hired the guy." That’s quite an endorsement from possibly the greatest college football coach of all-time.
Pruitt has led the Alabama defense for the past two seasons with much success. Now,r he finally gets his opportunity to be a head coach.
It is already odd that Tennessee’s next head coach has such deep ties to Alabama, which will surely only be made weirder when Tennessee fans see him on Alabama’s sideline during the Sugar Bowl. But despite all of that, Pruitt has proven he is an extremely talented football coach who has worked a long time to get where he is.
Tennessee hired a great football coach, a fantastic recruiter and a good man - and a man who has proven he is not afraid to work.