One aspect of Rusty Wright's life got much, much easier when he rejoined the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football coaching staff. He's spending much less time in the car.
"My commute is a lot shorter, that's for sure," said Wright, a former UTC tight end who was hired by coach Russ Huesman last month to direct the linebackers.
Wright and his family already lived in East Brainerd. In July 2011, he was hired to be the defensive coordinator at Reinhardt University in Waleska, Ga., near Canton. Reinhardt is an NAIA school that will play its first football season next fall.
While he didn't have to drive to Reinhardt every day, Wright said he appreciates the fact that he again can coach close to home.
"It was an hour exactly, I mean right on the dot," he said of his old drive. "Now, it's good to drop my daughter off at [Boyd-Buchanan] and only have a five-minute drive."
After playing at UTC from 1992 to '95, Wright began his coaching career with the Mocs. He spent six years at his alma mater, working first under Buddy Green and then Donnie Kirkpatrick. Soon after, he joined the staff of another former UTC assistant, Shane Montgomery, at Miami of Ohio.
Wright spent 2009 at Gardner-Webb and 2010 on Bobby Lamb's staff at Furman. He was coaching against the Mocs when UTC, trailing 28-10, pulled off the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in program history, rallying to win 36-28.
"I think we [Furman] wound up playing about 110 snaps on defense that day," he said. "It was awful."
When Huesman had a spot open on his defensive staff a year ago, he offered it to Wright. It wasn't the right time, Wright said, so he passed. Huesman then hired Adam Braithwaite, who last month replaced Adam Fuller as UTC's defensive coordinator.
Fuller also coached linebackers, so Huesman needed to find a replacement. He didn't have to look too far.
"Rusty's got great coaching experience and has been at a lot of good places," Huesman said. "And he's an alum here, which is not the most important thing, but it helps a whole bunch. ... I'd say it all worked out pretty well."
Wright will take over a linebacker corps that features a two-time All-American and All-Southern Conference player in Wes Dothard and a three-year starter in Gunner Miller, each heading into his senior season.
"I'm trying to learn these kids and they're trying to learn me," Wright said. "My job's to make them a little better and help this defense."
The Mocs begin spring practice on March 22.