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June 6, 2013An invitation to spend a day on Rocky Top with Butch Jones quickly turned into two days for Bob Welton, and a second day soon became a path into Welton's future on Jones' Tennessee football cabinet.
Which is why Welton's wife, Laura, knew the phone call she received during that spring trip was as much a formality as Welton's extra day in Knoxville.
"I called her and said, 'Hey, do you want to move to Knoxville?' And she said, 'I knew you couldn't say no.' Because we had talked about it and I'd told her I really hoped it would work out; that Butch was the one guy who if he called I couldn't say no," said Welton, whose first day as Tennessee's new director of player personnel came April 20 at the Orange & White game. "It was supposed to be a one-day trip and it turned into a two-day trip. She said as soon as she knew I was staying an extra day that I was going to take the job. It was good. She's a football wife, and she has no reservations about that. We're both from Michigan, so this actually gets us closer to home and that's a positive."
A former high school head coach in his native Michigan, who spent the previous nine years working for the NFL's Cleveland Browns, Welton had been approached regarding numerous other opportunities at the collegiate level, but he was particularly struck by the way Jones intended to approach and differentiate his player personnel director from other big-time programs.
"The way he explained it and approached it sounded really good and interesting to me and different from how the others had described it," Welton told VolQuest.com. "Butch said he wanted to help these kids while we recruit them, said I want you to be a resource for them while they're here, and then I want you to be a resource for them for the NFL because of your experience when they're preparing to leave.
"Everybody else who approached me about the job just said 'Come in, and recruit, recruit, recruit.' No one had ever really approached it like Butch and brought out the whole package of 'Look, this is how I want to use you here.' So you had that, the fact it was Butch and the fact it was the University of Tennessee, to be quite honest with you. I had never been here as a scout, and I'd done a lot of the Southeast. I would do Tennessee, but I may have watched them at another school. I had not been here. He said I will fly you down and he said 'just come see if this is something you might be interested in.'"
Jones told VolQuest.com that filling a position he sees as critical toward his rebuilding of Tennessee made reaching out to Welton an easy choice.
"I think first and foremost, he's a great person. Family man with a great family and he has a passion for what he does. I've known him for a number of years and his work ethic and his energy that he brings to the office, his management style, leadership but also his vision. And his passion for wanting to be at the University of Tennessee," Jones gushed. "Not only could he have gone to work for a number of NFL franchises, but he also had been offered these positions at a number of other college institutions but he wanted to come to Tennessee."
While everything around Welton in Cleveland had changed across the past year following the Haslams' purchase of the franchise and house-cleaning of head coach and front office personnel, Welton said he took particular notice of how very little Jones had changed since Welton was head coach at South Haven High School (Mich.) and Jones recruited his school for Ferris State.
"He had a very good vision, and as you get to know Butch, you'll see that's who he is: He's an ideas guy who likes to think outside the box. And you've got to always be on your toes with him. He's never going to be complacent, I know that, and he's always looking for an advantage and how to change things and make them better. It's been great. And once I came here, it was like I'd been here for three years," Welton said. "It's really rare in this business [that a guy doesn't change]. And it's nobody's fault. It's college coaches. You get to a point and it takes a toll, but I was re-energized when I was talking to him. This is the same guy as always. I knew what I was going into. Butch is the same guy, and I felt like this would not be hard to come in and pick up where we had left off."
Jones has made clear the expectation is nothing less. He has assembled and tweaked a staff that Welton noted has quickly assimilated and Jones said had no misgivings about the demanding standard and yet collegial atmosphere that he intended to foster.
"They know what they're getting," said Jones of his ability to sway Welton from other posts in much the way he convinced Zach Azzanni to refute several opportunities to rejoin Jones' staff. "We're going to work extremely hard, but we're also going to have a family environment. So I think we all work well together, and we always talk about all being aligned and having a unity of purpose. We all have that. Our families know each other, and you can feel that family atmosphere. You can feel that togetherness. We know we all have a job to do, and we're all focused on that same goal."
For Welton, that goal is both in the immediate and long-term results.
"I think the first big thing was organizing the recruiting department. I think we've got good people hired. They were kind of thrown into the fire when this whole thing switched, and it's amazing they did as well as they did. A lot of credit to those people," Welton said. "They did a heck of job just keeping this thing afloat, and now organizing this department and people asking what we need. I think just seeing the recruiting machine working in the proper way and helping our coaches and making their jobs easier, so if I can sit here in a year and say this thing is running well. That's the goal, to get it running smooth and that the process is as flawless as possible. You don't want to lose track of guys. Can't miss guys. Can't be late on guys.
"I think that's how I would measure a year from now if we've done a good job and then three years from now, you hope you're pumping out some All-Americans and some top NFL draft picks."