Tennessee legend and current Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning spent his bye week in Athens, Ga., this past weekend watching his alma matter take on No. 13 Georgia. Manning met with the Volunteers players and coaching staff pregame and was present on the sidelines during the team’s 35-32 loss on Saturday.

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones is no stranger to the rich tradition at Tennessee, something he’s made evident since his hire in December 2012. Jones has done an excellent job bringing former players back into the fold as ambassadors to the football program. The second-year coach keeps in contact with ex-Vols and allows these players to share their knowledge with the current roster.

“I do [text former players] and our former players have been extremely supportive,” Jones said. “They understand what’s going on here at Tennessee. They understand the work that needs to be done. They understand the work that has already been done. They’re proud of their alma mater.

“They understand where this football program is headed and I know they’re extremely encouraged. They’re excited of the progress we’re making. They understand too, we have a long ways to go. You look at the tweets of our former players, they’re excited about recruiting. Why wouldn’t a prospective student-athlete want to come here? Why wouldn’t they? The fan base, the vision, where this football program is headed, it’s a matter of time.”

Several former players, including Troy Fleming, have been vocal of Jones’ rebuilding process and acknowledgment of Tennessee’s historic past compared to the prior coaching regime.

“The biggest thing about coach Jones is he actually does his job. Unlike that guy we call Derek Doolittle, who really did very little,” Fleming said. “With coach Jones, when you walk into the facility now it’s like you never left.”

It’s important for Jones to keep these strong relationships in tact moving forward. Tennessee is striving to reclaim its rich history in the present and future and must acknowledge the achievements of ex-Vol players. Having these strong bonds will further benefit the second-year coach moving forward and provide a smooth transition in Tennessee’s rebuilding process.