KNOXVILLE -- Derek Dooley turned to a longtime friend Friday night and completed his first University of Tennessee football coaching staff.
Chuck Smith, a former UT and NFL star, was officially hired to coach his alma mater's defensive line.
Smith, a 40-year-old from Athens, Ga., spent last season as an assistant with the NFL's New York Jets. He has spent much of the past decade tutoring NFL, college and high school players at Defensive Line Inc., an instructional firm he started in 1991.
"I want to thank Mike Hamilton and President Jan Simek for running UT like a first-class organization and bringing Derek in," Smith said of Dooley, a former high school teammate. "I know exactly the kind of character Derek has and exactly the kind of football coach he is.
"I'm just excited about this opportunity to be a part of a program that believes not only in winning championships but also having champions off the field," Smith said. "Integrity always will be one of our goals."
Smith, who has instructed nearly 60 NFL linemen in the past five years, has politely lobbied for the UT job since Jan. 25, when Jets coach Rex Ryan told New York reporters that Smith would join the Volunteers.
Dooley, in person and through UT officials, had to deny multiple times that he'd hired Smith. But once Smith sat down with Dooley and new Vols defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, the "official" hiring seemed a mere formality.
"I know Chuck," Dooley said on Wednesday's national signing day. "Chuck's a good coach, a great person and he was a great player. We'll see where all that takes us."
Smith's list of tutored pupils features plenty of quality mixed in with its quantity. He has mentored former UT stars Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis and Robert Ayers as well as fellow NFL linemen Richard Seymour, Osi Umenyiora, Jonathan Babaneaux, Shaun Rogers, Patrick Kerney and Larry English.
NFL star linebackers Ray Lewis and Bart Scott also have learned from Smith, whose reputation as a pass-rushing expert has increased rapidly the past few years.
His reputation as a player was equally strong. His two seasons with the Vols, 1990 and 1991, ended with Sugar and Fiesta bowl appearances. He excelled at right defensive end for UT's 1990 Southeastern Conference championship season, and he was voted MVP of the 1991 Senior Bowl.
The Atlanta Falcons selected Smith in the second round of the 1992 draft, and the fans voted him "best defensive lineman in team history" after he collected 58.5 sacks in nine seasons. He was team captain during the Falcons' 1998 Super Bowl season.
"It would be an unbelievable honor to come back home and coach for Tennessee," Smith said last week. "I am a part of this program, and it's a part of me, and I think I can sell that as well as anyone. I know I can coach, and I know I can recruit.
"I can really sit down and tell kids and their families how special Tennessee is, because I experienced it firsthand."
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