By: Jim Steele
Former McKenzie football all-stater Max Arnold had a plan. He decided he wanted to go to Tennessee and give playing for the Big Orange a shot.
He had a plan. Arnold decided that the best way to get into coaching was to do the best he could at a Division 1 program and then use that resume builder to get a college coaching job.The former Rebel played for Derek Dooley, but didn't see the field that much. Before the 2012 Kentucky game, Dooley was shown the door and Butch Jones was soon named Dooley's replacement.
Jones offered Arnold a starting job on special teams, put him on nickel situations with the defense and gave him a scholarship his senior year. Fast forward to Sunday, almost exactly five years to the day, Jones was shown the door at UT.
Arnold, a defensive assistant at Tennessee, was there for both dismissals.
"It was weird man, just weird," Arnold said. "I've experienced this as a player and as a coach. The protocol was pretty much the same as it was for Dooley."
Arnold said he was doing his usual Sunday routine at about noon when heard the news. He headed back to the complex.
"We got all the players in, met with them, just like it was with Dooley before he left," Arnold said. "He got a standing ovation."
When Dooley got canned, Arnold said it might be a new start for him.
"When Jones got here, it was kind of exciting, but it was like starting all over from scratch," Arnold said. "Then I got to start on special teams. I felt like, when Jones got here, the best guys played."
With Jones' departure, it's a bit different for Arnold."When you are a player, everybody stays," he said. "As a coach, it's a little scary because there is no guarantee what the future holds. I will just pray that God leads me where He wants me to go. I have no doubt that God has good plans; if that's with Tennessee and a new coach, that's great, but if it's a different place with different scenery, that's fine, too."
Arnold said that while things may not have turned out the way most everyone in the Big Orange fold had hoped, he admired Jones' work ethic. Arnold described Jones as someone who has a "motor" and worked extremely hard.
"Unless you've worked on the coaching side of things, you have no idea how it is," Arnold said. "It's crazy. You get there at 6:30 in the morning and you might not leave until 1 the next morning. You have to condition your brain otherwise, it will wear you out."
Arnold extolled Jones' achievements during his five seasons at Tennessee.
"We were ranked No. 9 last year and we won three bowl games, two of them against teams who were ranked higher than us and we killed them," Arnold said. "Before Jones, we were hoping for a bowl game. Fans have high expectations, but that's what makes Tennessee so great."
The former Rebel says whatever happens at UT, it's not about him. It's about the kids.
"I am in this to impact kids in a positive way. That's what I learned playing at McKenzie , which is why I liked playing for Coach (Wade) Comer," Arnold said. "I love coaching and wouldn't want to be doing anything else."
In the immediate future, Tennessee has Louisiana State coming up Saturday night at Neyland Stadium, then finish up with Vanderbilt Nov. 23 in Knoxville.
"Right now, we have to get ready for LSU and Vandy and try to get to a bowl game," Arnold said. "Change isn't always negative. I changed schools six times before I came to college. I'll just take it day by day."