BY WES RUCKER, 247SPORTS
Most of the specifics on Jauan Jennings’ potential reinstatement to the Tennessee football team haven’t been publicized to this point, but athletic director Phillip Fulmer said Wednesday that anger-management counseling will be part of the process.
Fulmer — in a Wednesday interview with Jayson Swain on Knoxville’ The Swain Event radio show — confirmed again that the Vols’ star wide receiver will have a chance to return to the program if he stays on the straight-and-narrow and checks every item on a list prepared for him by new head coach Jeremy Pruitt.
Jennings, who missed virtually all of last season with a wrist injury sustained in the first half of the opener against Georgia Tech, was dismissed from the program by then-interim head coach Brady Hoke following a post-practice social media rant in late November. Jennings and his family have since met with Pruitt, Fulmer and others, and the player remained enrolled at Tennessee this semester in hopes of rejoining the team at some point.
“It’s usually just the history — you know, you give a guy a chance [to turn it around], and a lot of times it’s not public,” Fulmer told Swain. “In his case, almost everything that’s happened to him has been, I guess, public, at some point or another. Back in the day, we tried to keep it within the family, and if we just couldn’t manage it, you had to go.
“But in Jauan’s case, Coach Pruitt decided that he’s gonna give him this list of things to do, and if he does those things, including, you know, counseling things with the anger management, and other kinds of things, then he will have earned the right to try to be a Vol. If he doesn’t, he can’t blame anybody else but himself.
“I’m hopeful that he does it as a young person. He’s got a wonderful mom and dad, he’s got certainly good guidance here with the help that’s available, but that’s available to any of our guys.”
Fulmer reiterated his stance of wishing in-house disciplinary issues could remain in-house, but he admitted the difficulties in keeping things private in this era full of players having direct access to fans via social media.
The former legendary Hall of Fame Tennessee coach said issues often become much more difficult to manage when they become public, but that Jennings will have a fair opportunity to rejoin the program.
Fulmer and Swain — who played for Fulmer and remains one of the top pass-catchers in Tennessee history — agreed that Jennings’ social-media antics made his situation more difficult to manage.
“Sometimes this gets public — like with Jauan, he’s kind of made it public, I think, as much anything,” Fulmer told Swain. “There’s every day help for people going on, just like there are on campuses everywhere in the country — and not just for athletes, but regular students — every day to help them through this time. Eighteen-to-22 is a growing time, right, Jayson? We sat and had talks about things, whether it was playing time of girlfriends or all the things that come up in a young person’s life.
Personally, I wish that it all could be just private, and we could just handle it, but unfortunately that’s not the case. The media does a lot of good things, too, but sometimes things get public, and then it gets exaggerated sometimes.
“We’ll see where this goes. I hope he does what he needs to do.”
Fulmer also told Swain that several former Tennessee players have contacted him and offered to help Jennings navigate his rehabilitation process, which has been a “fantastic” development.
“The players are one thing, but getting back on track personally is more important, and you know that,” Fulmer said. “But you’re right, I’ve had lots of folks that probably, you know, had a lot of help while they were here along the way, or they saw other people help people, and that’s what it’s all about. When we say ‘Vol For Life,’ you know, that’s what you are. It’s been great. The outpouring of former players, I mean, that’s just been so fantastic.
“To have Montario Hardesty back here as a coach, and to have Terry Fair back here as a coach, that’s been great. Montario is an analyst, and Terry is a full-time coach, and we’ve talked to some of the other guys. That’s been really fun.”