HOOVER, Ala. — Since January, Rock Gullickson has been the most popular man on Tennessee’s campus.
Players, assistants and head coach Butch Jones have all raved about “Rock’s” extensive NFL resumé, touting the new strength and conditioning coordinator’s knowledge, passion and energy.
The bubbly praise continued at SEC Media Days on Monday, with Jones once again lauding the offseason efforts by his longtime friend.
"It's been a very, very productive offseason for us, probably the most competitive offseason that we've had,” Jones said.
“And a lot of that goes – is attributed to our players, to our leadership, but also to the addition of Rock Gullickson in the strength and conditioning area. Rock has really kind of changed the dynamics in that room.
“I’ve been very fortunate to know Rock for a number of years. As we all know, he was in my wedding and I think the expertise of 17 years in the NFL, you can’t put a price-tag on that.”
Jones hired Gullickson to revamp a S&C program that went wayward following the departure of Dave Lawson before last season. There were too many injuries. Too many players not physically ready for the rigors of the SEC.
While the team was confident about its offseason gains under a new regime last summer too, there’s a palpable change in attitude under Gullickson in 2017. Time will tell how real the results truly are, but Jones believes Gullickson has had an instant impact for one significant reason.
“I was just sitting with our players and I asked them, 'Tell me the difference in the weight room. Tell me what you see,’” Jones said.
“They said, ‘Respect. Here’s an individual who’s been in the NFL and we all have dreams and aspirations of going to that next level and we don't want to let him down.’
“The way he commands that room, but also the way he commands respect and gives respect back I think it’s been extremely healthy for our program and been healthy for our other strength coaches as well. I know our players look forward of going in there everyday. They can see the rewards in all their hard work because of all the progress they’ve made.”