When I was working at The Weekly Post in Rainsville in 2003, Plainview High School found itself looking for a new head football coach.
Among the group of candidates was Jeremy Pruitt, a former Plainview star and Middle Tennessee and Alabama defensive back. Pruitt did not get the job however. But as good a coaching position as the Plainview job is, that turned out to be a blessing for Pruitt.
Fourteen years later, Pruitt is the head football coach at the University of Tennessee after a meteoric rise from the high school ranks to college assistant to national-title winning defensive coordinator.
The Rainsville native, who attended elementary school at Pisgah for two years while his father Dale was the Eagles’ head coach (1982-83), was a winner on the field for the Bears, leading them from the quarterback position to two Class 3A state championship game appearances.
Pruitt became a known name during his time as Hoover defensive coordinator thanks to MTV reality show “Two a Days.” He later joined Nick Saban’s staff in support position at Alabama and in 2010 was elevated to Alabama’s defensive backs coach. In 2013, he became the defensive coordinator at Florida State, winning a national title with the Seminoles. He then served as defensive coordinator at Georgia for two years before returning to Alabama in that role in 2016.
Pruitt’s road wasn’t the typical one college coaches take. But high school coaches are finding their way to major college football more than ever. And Pruitt is more proof that going from the prep ranks to the heights of the collegiate level isn’t just a pie in the sky dream.
And so, Jeremy Pruitt has his first head-coaching position. For UT, a disastrously embarrassing coaching search ended with the hiring of one of college football’s top up-and-coming coaches. Pruitt is a lot higher quality of coach than the Vols seemed destined to land. He’s a sharp football mind and is an excellent recruiter.
The task is tall at UT, which has struggled for a decade. Tennessee is betting that Pruitt is the coach to turn around its proud but bruised program.
It’s a pretty safe bet that Pruitt will make things a lot less rocky on Rocky Top.