It was the news that Walt Wells had been waiting some 20 odd years to hear. The chance to coach at a power five program with limitless resources. The promotion to offensive line coach at Tennessee drew calls, texts and plenty of excitement from high school coaches around the state of Tennessee.
"I love it," state championship winning and Nolensville head coach Will Hester said. "He's a relationship builder. He's the No. 1 guy on Tennessee's staff in middle Tennessee in my opinion. It's not Shoop or any of those guys. He's a relationship guy and I think he's going to do a great job. It's a feather in the cap of the Tennessee high school coaches to have Walt Wells on staff."
Murfreesboro Siegel head coach Michael Copely is still brand new on the job after coming from Louisville Ballard. As a former Centennial assistant and veteran of the mid-state, he has not only seen Wells' tireless work ethic, but he's also been touched by the Wells player factory.
"He's invaluable," Copley said. "Especially when you start talking mid-state and in Kentucky. My offensive line coach that I had in Kentucky, Walt coached him. He's never met a stranger. He bonds with kids and I've seen him come in our buildings and kids love him. I think it's a no-brainer. Everyone of us at the high school level have said if he ever gets that chance, he will blow it out of the water. A lot of that is tied to recruiting, but he can also coach ball. What a freaking steal for Tennessee."
A Nashville native having played his own ball at McGavock high school over 30 years ago, Wells has countless ties to the Volunteer state, in particular middle Tennessee. His roots are woven through the high schools and coaching staffs across the Volunteer state.
"He is as genuine and authentic of a person as you will meet," Nashville Christian's Jeff Brothers said. "He is going to tell you how he feels. He is loyal and genuine. I've known him since his college days as a player. He is laid back and I think that is what helps him make all of those connections in recruiting whether it's here in Tennessee or other states. Everyone relates to him and that makes him a good recruiter. There are just so many moments when you are with him and you end up laughing more when you are with him than most people. He knows the game really well and he's one of the good ones."
Father Ryan head coach Brian Rector has known Wells for years and even worked with him for a few seasons at Western Kentucky. The ability to relate to almost every person he comes in contact with sets him up to succeed on a consistent basis.
"He's very unique in his relationships," Rector said. "Having worked with him for two years and knowing him longer than that, I've learned that he is very unique in his relationships and his connections and the people that he knows. We are very excited about this part of the state and elsewhere for coach Wells.”
The more you talk to people that have been touched by Wells, the more you realize there are countless stories about his ability to relate to kids. Stories of him doing old-man stretches at big man camps from years gone by as players would huddle around him eager for more are just the tip of the iceberg.
"He's detailed oriented and demanding. He's the kind of coach that cares about his players,” Rector went on to add. “I learned this from him and it's something he's always said, 'they don't care how much you know until they know how much you care' and those are things I've taken with me as well. They will see high energy. And in the end, they will get just as many pats on the back as kicks in the rear."
Wells has some serious in-roads and connections with many of the best players in the state. His brother Bobby coaches defensive lineman D'Andre Litaker at Riverdale High School in Murfreesboro. His good friend, Brothers, coaches defensive lineman Brant Lawless at Nashville Christian. And one of his former players, Travis Turner, coaches Vol tight end target James Mitchell in Big Stone Gap, Virginia.
"I know all that coach Wells brings," Turner said. "Having played for him I know he's very passionate about football. When I played for him at Eastern Kentucky, we were one of the toughest teams in the country and that started up front."
"I can see coach Wells and James (Mitchell) hitting it off quick. Get the chance to get him down on campus and get him introduced to coach Wells. Sitting them down one one one and having that connection."
And the recruiting has already begun with Wells speaking with Tennessee commitment Cade Mays shortly after being promoted on Tuesday night.