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COACH DEREK DOOLEY – Football Coach, Teamwork, Leadership

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Derek Dooley may own a rival’s pedigree, but to Tennessee fans he felt just like one of their own when the Vols introduced him as the school’s 22nd head coach in January.

Dooley, 42, came to UT after three seasons as head coach at Louisiana Tech, where he also served as athletics director since March 2008. He was the only athletics director serving as head football coach on the major college level.

But it is his family lineage where Tennessee and Southeastern Conference football fans make the connection. Dooley is the youngest son of Georgia football legend Vince Dooley, who coached the Bulldogs for 25 seasons and claimed six league titles and the 1980 national championship. (Mother:  Barbara Dooley)

And yet Tennessee’s Dooley sounds right at home on Rocky Top.

“As most of you know, I grew up in this conference,” he said. “I grew up in the SEC. It didn’t take me long as a youngster to realize that Tennessee was the essence of college football. Even as a young kid, watching the team run through the ‘T,’ when you see checkerboard end zones and, of course, hear ‘Rocky Top’ – those were vivid memories as a youngster.”

In Dooley’s first season at the helm of the Tennessee football program, the Vols finished 6-6, winning all four games in November to become bowl eligible and earn a berth in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. This year’s Tennessee team was led by a small but committed group of upperclass leaders, such as team captains Nick Reveiz and Luke Stocker, junior running back and captain Tauren Poole, and standout wide receivers Denarius Moore and Gerald Jones.

However, the bright future on the horizon for Tennessee football is best exemplified by the performances from a talented Volunteer freshman class. Tennessee played 26 freshmen in 2010, including 16 true freshmen, both the third-highest totals in major college football. Against Memphis, the VOLS started a school-record seven true freshmen.

Many of the freshmen who played for the VOLS this season assumed significant roles and produced record-setting seasons. Quarterback Tyler Bray was undefeated as a starter and set a Tennessee record for passing yards by a freshman with 1,537. Bray also set overall school records for passing touchdowns (5) and passing yards (308) in a single half, both accomplished at Memphis.

Freshman wide receiver Justin Hunter, one of many freshmen recruited and signed by Dooley and his staff in the short weeks between his acceptance of the head coaching job at Tennessee and national signing day, set a Tennessee freshman record with six receiving touchdowns and averaged a remarkable 27 yards per catch this season. Additionally, the Vols received 28 starts by freshmen on the offensive line, including right tackle Ja’Wuan James, who started all 12 games at right tackle. James Stone (7 starts), JerQuari Schofield (5 starts) and Zach Fulton (4 starts) also started multiple games in 2010, allowing each to gain experience that could pay huge dividends for Tennessee football down the road.

And while the future certainly seems promising, the present featured a big-play offense that produced 71 plays of 20-plus yards, 19 of which were touchdowns. This total marked a significant increase from the 2009 total of 61 plays of 20-or-more-yards, only 10 of which went for touchdowns.

The 2010 team’s growth and development as the season progressed was also featured defensively as well. The Vols allowed only 13.0 points per game in November, ranking eighth in the nation during the month. Tennessee also was a plus-9 in turnover margin in November, the third-best total nationally. And despite having such a young roster, the disciplined nature of the 2010 VOLS allowed them to rank third in the conference in fewest penalty yards per game for the entire season (41.5 yards per game).

Dooley never accepted the predetermined path to success. He played his college football at Virginia, turning down scholarship offers elsewhere to walk on and later earn his own scholarship from Cavaliers head coach George Welsh.

As a wide receiver, Dooley earned that scholarship after his second season and went on to help the Cavaliers to three bowl appearances and the 1989 Atlantic Coast Conference championship.

In 1990, he was named first team Academic All-ACC and helped Virginia to a Sugar Bowl bid against Tennessee.

During his UVA career, Dooley caught 41 passes for 604 yards and three touchdowns. His level of play was such in the 1990 season that he was invited to and participated in the Senior Bowl.

He graduated that year with a bachelor’s degree in government and foreign affairs, and then went on to earn his law degree from the University of Georgia in 1994.

After a successful start to the legal profession, Dooley switched gears and returned to his love of football. Four short years later, he latched onto the staff of Nick Saban at LSU and moved into the fast lane of the SEC. After five successful seasons that included two SEC titles, the 2003 national championship, Dooley moved with Saban to the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.

“I really thrived in his way of doing things,” Dooley said of Saban. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity he gave me in wearing so many hats, coaching different positions, coordinating recruiting and coordinating special teams, assistant head coach — he really allowed me to blossom as a young coach.”

But rather than remain in that comfort zone, Dooley again chose his own path toward success – a path that returned him to the state of Louisiana.

“There was a part of me that said stay in your comfort zone, sit tight, and, hopefully, one day it (head coaching job) would come,” Dooley said. “That really isn’t who I am, and I felt I needed to develop more to be ready when I got this opportunity.”

Dooley was named to his first head coaching position by Louisiana Tech in December 2006, and immediately began laying the foundation for future success. Included in his 23-26 overall record was an 8-5 mark in 2008 highlighted by the school’s first postseason victory in 30 years at the Independence Bowl. Tech finished second in the WAC that season and played in a bowl game for only the third time since joining the major college ranks in 1989.

For his efforts, the Louisiana Sports Writers’ Association named him 2008 Coach of the Year.

“I am certain that I’m a better and more qualified candidate by doing what I did the last three years,” Dooley said. “I did take a little bit of a risk. I took the head coaching job at Louisiana Tech. It was a program that had been struggling, it was a program that hadn’t made a lot of investment in football, and I’m very proud of the improvements we made in all phases.”

Tennessee Director of Athletics Mike Hamilton, always a visionary, saw in Dooley a rising star on the sidelines that could fit right away into his rugged SEC surroundings.

“Derek is one of the bright young coaches in America,” Hamilton said. “He understands our league and the competitive environment in which we compete. He took a very difficult first head coaching job and made significant strides there in a short period of time.

“He is incredibly bright, a tireless recruiter and excellent on-the-field coach.”

Dooley began his coaching career in 1996 as a graduate assistant at Georgia under defensive coordinator Joe Kines. He then served from 1997-99 as wide receivers coach and co-recruiting coordinator at SMU, where Dooley helped the Mustangs to the school’s only winning season over a 20-year stretch.

Dooley joined the staff at LSU under Saban in 2000, serving as recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach from 2000-02 and then running backs coach and special teams coordinator from 2003-04. While LSU’s recruiting coordinator, Dooley helped the Tigers land No. 1 classes in 2001 and 2003.

The Tigers won SEC championships both of those seasons, claimed the BCS national championship in 2003, and Saban promoted Dooley to assistant head coach for the 2004 campaign.

Under Dooley’s tutelage, running back Justin Vincent set an LSU freshman record by rushing for 1,001 yards in 2003. He went on to be named MVP of both the SEC Championship Game as well as the Sugar Bowl, during which LSU claimed the BCS national title.

In 2004, the Tigers finished first in the SEC in rushing (193.8 yards per game), led by Aley Broussard (867 yards, 6.1 avg.) and Joseph Addai (680 yards, 6.7 avg.), a first-round draft choice of Indianapolis in 2006.

Dooley left with Saban to serve as tight ends coach for the Dolphins from 2005-06. During his two years in Miami, Dooley oversaw the continued development of tight end Randy McMichael, who ended his Dolphins career as the all-time leader in receptions by a tight end.

Before embarking on his coaching career, Dooley practiced law at a private law firm in Atlanta for two years.

Dooley is married to Dr. Allison Jeffers Dooley, an OB/GYN and Fort Worth, Texas, native. They have two sons, John Taylor (12) and Peyton (9), and a daughter, Julianna (6).

Allison is active in fund-raising and leadership for the Susan G. Komen Foundation for breast cancer research.

Travels from:  Knoxville, Tennessee

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