Butch Jones has two families.
His legion of orange-clad football players takes the field with him during the fall. They struggle, mourn and celebrate together amid the game-winning Hail Mary’s and crushing defeats.
But when the lights fade out at Neyland Stadium and the game is over, Butch Jones returns to his other family, his true family. There, he is a father first.
Butch Jones met his wife, Barb Jones, while in college at Ferris State University. His family is complete with sons Andrew Jones, a fifth-grader, Adam Jones, a junior football player for Catholic High School, and Alex Jones, a student at UT.
Alex Jones also played football for Catholic his senior year; he was a kicker, unable to play any other positions or sports due to a heart condition.
Alex Jones had initially wanted to quit the team when he was behind on the depth chart. Butch Jones wouldn’t let him leave the team, however. Alex Jones made 55 extra points for the Irish and walked on to Tennessee’s football team.
“Looking back, I wish I had started kicking sooner,” Alex Jones said while in high school.
The influence that Butch Jones has on his players had also carried over to his oldest son.
“That was a great, great lesson in parenting,” Butch Jones said. “We could have said, ‘Go ahead and quit,’ and he would have never experienced Friday night lights.”
“He would have never experienced what it was to compete at Knoxville Catholic on a great football team, and he wouldn’t have become a part of our football team.”
Alex Jones is no longer on Tennessee’s player roster; he is now a student assistant with the program, working toward a career in coaching, just like his father.
During an off week for the Vols last season, Butch Jones was able to see Adam Jones, then a sophomore, get in the game at Catholic for the last five minutes. Butch Jones said then that that time was, “the best five minutes of football I’ve had in a long time.”
Working in a job that shares similarities with parenting, including instilling character and work ethic, many football coaches have children, and that trend is true at Tennessee.
Butch Jones’s staff is made up of fathers as well. All except wide receivers coach Kevin Beard, all of Jones’s assistant coaches have children.
As the 2017 season creeps closer for the Vols, Jones is in preparation for a year that could be life changing for him and his family. The 2016 campaign was disappointing for many Tennessee fans, and pressure has mounted for Butch Jones to deliver a successful fifth season in order to keep his job security intact.
Tennessee will be breaking in a new quarterback and replacing one of the program’s most talented recruiting classes in recent history, including NFL Draft-selections Josh Dobbs, Derek Barnett, Alvin Kamara, and Cameron Sutton.
Butch Jones holds an 80-48 total overall record as a head coach, having made career stops at Central Michigan and Cincinnati as well. He is 30-21 in four years at Tennessee.
But whatever the future holds for Butch Jones’ career with the Vols, his paternal role will not conclude. It has been a constant throughout the multiple games and seasons that he has seen from the sidelines.
In a career such as coaching, job titles often change. Career venues come and go, just as players and staff members do.
When Butch Jones returns to his home in Knoxville, though, he is met with a reality much different than that of the football field. He is a father, and that may well be the job that matters the most to him.
Attribution in this article were done from previous interviews; Butch Jones was unable to comment.