John Chavis went from coaching SEC defenses for 30 straight years (1989-2019) to volunteering as a middle school assistant football coach at Knoxville’s West Middle School in 2020. Chavis is sorta having a gap year from the college game after Arkansas released him along with head coach Chad Morris. Chavis, who turns 64 in mid-October, told ESPN there were conversations to get back in the game, but COVID put a stop to that talk. Now he’s just enjoying his time helping former UT players with the middle school team.
“If it’s over, it’s over,” Chavis, said. “But before I say it’s over, I want to see what else is out there, college or NFL. I’ve got some people who have talked to me and are talking to me, and I’d even take a high school job. I love doing this. I’m going to coach as long as I’m healthy and the good Lord wants me to do this. I’ve still got that passion.
“But if it is over, I don’t have any regrets. The only regret would be leaving with a bad taste in your mouth after the way it ended at Arkansas and Texas A&M.”
Chavis was part of Kevin Sumlin’s staff at A&M and wasn’t retained when Jimbo Fisher came to town with his 10-year, $75 million contract.
‘Chief’ has coached some big names, including Tyrann Mathieu, Jamal Adams and Al Wilson.
“Trust me, go with it, you’ll make a lot of money one day,” Chavis once told Mathieu about the Honey Badger nickname that was given to him via internet message boards.
The middle school kids have almost no idea that Chavis coached some of their favorite players or that the man with the classic mustache, who walked on at Tennessee, cried after coaching the Vols defense to a 1998 national championship.
The old football coach still has that burning desire to see his kids succeed, and the boys at West Middle School are lucky to have him.
“I’m having fun. I’m not just saying that because I think it’s the thing to say. If I wasn’t having fun, I wouldn’t be doing it.”
Imagine the reaction of football dads in Knoxville when they hear this news. The league will have to institute an SEC-like exception rule for the rest of the season. West Middle School’s defense is about to get all the recruits.