“Phillip Fulmer is judged by numbers. Take your pick as to which one you judge him, but you know that you do it. Is it the 13 wins that he got in 1998 or the 6 he didn’t in 2005? Is it the 2.1 million that he receives from the University to coach the game of football or the 2 SEC titles he has in his 15 years as the Vols head coach?
All you have to do is listen to local radio call-in shows, read the newspaper or watch a sportscast on T.V. to hear Fulmer’s numbers every day. But, there are some numbers that no one ever talks about that tell a more in depth story into Fulmer’s success at UT. They are the numbers that former players speak of and the reason they have the utmost respect for their former coach.
When we sat down last week for this interview, I threw some “Phillip Fulmer” career numbers at him that even he wasn’t aware of:
“In the Fulmer career, the Vols have averaged 17 all-SEC academic honor roll selections every year.”
“I didn’t know that. That’s pretty good. I’m also very proud that we’ve led the SEC the last 2 years in number of guys who have graduated and the number of guys with a 3.0 GPA or better. I’m real happy about those kinds of numbers because you don’t keep those every day, and people aren’t aware of those every day. I’m also proud of the fact that we’ve had no NCAA violations and no APR (Academic Progress Rate) issues. There’s a lot more to this than just Saturday’s in the fall. We’ve done very well at that, but also at the other as well.
“Since 1996, the Vols have put the 2nd highest number of players in the NFL with 75. That’s tied with Florida and just 3 behind Ohio St.”
“We have a unique scenario here. We have to go places further than we would like to. But, we have the tradition and facilities to do that. And, we do a great job developing players. Our practices are so intense, that if a young man is going to put himself into a position to play for us, he’ll have to learn how to practice. Our strength and conditioning area is exceptional and I think that we do a great job from a personal maturation process of dealing with young men and making that transition from adolescence to manhood.”
“Fulmer is the winningest coach in college football over the past 10 years.”
“That’s thrilling. It’s something that I take real pride in. I’m not egotistical enough to think that it hasn’t been a team effort. It’s the team of players and coaches, particularly those coaches who have been here a long time, like David (Cutcliffe) or John (Chavis). Those coaches like Dan (Brooks) and Steve (Caldwell) have been crucial to what we’ve accomplished.”
“Fulmer, with Cutcliffe and Chavis have won 85% of their games together.”
“That’s amazing, isn’t it? I think it’s the great bond that we have. We sit down every Friday and go through a number of scenario’s that could happen in a game. You wouldn’t believe how that has paid off over the years as we’re making decisions during the game. At this point, we’ve had enough knock down, drag outs and discussions… and I mean that in a literal sense. When we walk out of the room, we’re on the same page, and that’s unique.”
“Tennessee hasn’t won an SEC title in 9 years.”
“I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all, a lot of people don’t. We’ve played for it 4 out of the last 10 years, and that’s more than anybody else in the conference. But, I want to do more than win the division. I want to win the SEC championship. And, if you do that, you have an opportunity to compete for a national championship.”
The number that some fans talk about is a number yet to come. It’s a number that I asked Fulmer about. It’s also a number that he hopes he has control of:
“How many more years do you plan on being the head coach at the University of Tennessee?”
“Vicki and I have talked about it. I think 6 to 8 more years. I think that would be plenty. I still have the passion for it and the energy. I learned a lot about myself in 2005 to be real honest with you, about the whole scenario that happened to us. It made me sit down and think, and I said, yeah, I really like this game. And, I like the players and the coaches. I like the energy that’s around this program. I’ve committed to each class that we’ve recruited that we will be here for their time, and I will make the same commitment to the next class. So, I would say 6 to 8 more years until I go fly fishing in Montana in the fall.”
The numbers for the 2007 season start accumulating in just 6 days. But, the numbers that no one talks about will continue to form the legacy that Fulmer will leave behind when his career comes to an end. And, if he has his way that will be when HIS number reaches the early 60’s.”
(Mark Packer hosts the “Locker Room” presented by Parkwest Medical Center, Sunday night’s at 10 p.m. on MyVLT-2)