Jay Graham will be forever known to Tennessee fans for his touchdown runs against Alabama in 1995 and ’96, but he’s back on the UT sideline because “Tennessee was always the place I saw myself coaching.”
    
Despite the opportunity to coach Marcus Lattimore, one of the nation’s top running backs, for another season, Graham left South Carolina to become the running backs coach at UT, where he ranks seventh on the school’s all-time rushing list with 2,609 yards.
    
“It was tough not to decide to leave, not because he is a potential Heisman Trophy candidate, but because he is a good young man,” Graham said of Lattimore. “We talked about it and I said to him that he would probably coach at your alma mater if you had been in the same position. He agreed, and it was a good conversation. He is just a good young man.”
    
After a six-year playing career in the NFL, Graham began coaching at UT in 2005 as a graduate assistant. He also spent time at UT-Chattanooga, San Diego, UT-Martin and Miami (Oh.) before joining Steve Spurrier’s staff at South Carolina.
    
“Jay has every quality you would want in a coach,” Vols coach Derek Dooley said. “He is certainly a great person. He cares about the student-athletes. He has done a remarkable job in his short career of coaching players, motivating them and getting them to play well, and then, add to it what he has done at this place.
   
 “It was pretty much a no-brainer for me. We are glad Jay is back to his family and he is going to have a big role for us moving forward.”
    
Graham was hired while players were away on Christmas break, but the former Vol thinks it will be easy bonding with UT’s current running backs.
   
 “One of the guys pointed into the corner of the room, and I guess my picture was up, and asked, ‘Was that you?’ They are starting to figure out who I am,” he said. “... I think because I’ve walked in their shoes, I’ve done some of the things that they do, I think they can identify with me and understand it. Certainly, you have to know how to coach them and I think that validates it, but because you’ve been in their shoes and played at different levels, when they come off the sideline you can really identify with them during a game or at practice.”
    
Graham believes his time at UT as a player gives him a recruiting tool he can pitch at potential future Vols.
    
“When I am sitting on a young man’s couch I am a product of what I am selling,” he said. “I think that’s very important. For his parents to see that if you play well and can get to the NFL it is possible. Some of these young men might want to go off and coach too. I am able to talk about all of those things. I think that parents are able to see that this is what they want for their young man to end up doing.”