Why longtime SEC defensive coordinator John Chavis has decided to coach middle school football
As coordinators go in recent SEC history, John Chavis’ name has to be one of the first to come to mind for several schools.
Chavis has been the defensive coordinator at Tennessee, LSU, Texas A&M, and most recently Arkansas last season. But this season, his 42nd coaching football, he is coaching middle school football in the Knoxville, Tennessee area as a volunteer assistant at West Middle School. Chris Low of ESPN.com caught up with the noted assistant who is known by the nickname “Chief.”
Chavis, who turns 64 later this month, is quick to note he’s not even the defensive coordinator, just an assistant.
“That way, when we don’t get them stopped on third down, they can’t get on my butt,” joked Chavis, who’s coaching the team with former Tennessee quarterback Jeff Francis and longtime friend George Ewart, owner of the Knoxville restaurant Dead End BBQ.
There is plenty of good-natured ribbing back and forth on the coaching staff.
Ewart, the team’s defensive coordinator, is quick to reply.
“We’ve got a new play called ‘Third-and-Chavis,'” Ewart said, referring to the derisive name some fans came up with for their defensive coordinators on third-and-long situations when (insert favorite team here) can’t get stops.
Chavis shoots back, “It hasn’t worked yet. Maybe we ought to call it Third-and-Ewart.”
Chavis appreciates that his resume is not well known among his players.
“These kids have no clue who I am or where I’ve coached, and that’s good,” said Chavis, who won the Broyles Award in 2011 at LSU as the top assistant coach in college football and the AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year award in 2006 at Tennessee. “I don’t care what level it is. I still love seeing kids grow and come together as a team as much as I ever did. I wouldn’t trade any of it, just being out here working with these kids and being around George and Jeff.”