Tennessee's Willie Martinez, right, assistant head coach for defense and defensive backs, celebrates with defensive back Justin Coleman after he intercepted a pass during an NCAA college football spring scrimmage at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville.Photo by The Knoxville News Sentinel /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
KNOXVILLE -- Tennessee assistant football coaches John Jancek and Willie Martinez both insist that Saturday's game against No. 6 Georgia is "strictly business."
So all those years they spent on the Bulldogs' staff with Mark Richt -- five for Jancek, nine for Martinez -- don't make this one just a wee bit different?
"I have a lot of fond memories," said Jancek, the Vols' defensive coordinator who last coached the Dawgs in 2009. "My children still have friends in the Athens area. I still have friends on their coaching staff who I talk to regularly, just not this week. This is a business and my job is to beat them."
Added Martinez, the UT defensive backs coach whose last season with the Dawgs was also 2009: "I've got some great memories from my time there. Both my daughters graduated from Georgia. But it's really like any other week."
But can it really be like any other week with all that past history, especially for Martinez, who's known Richt since the two were students at Miami? How can you have spent so much time working for Richt and helping recruit Georgia redshirt senior quarterback Aaron Murray to UGA and then label this nothing more than business?
"Oh, we're very close," Martinez said of Richt. "He is what he is. That was Mark then and that's Mark now. That's one reason he's been very successful."
Asked if there was a wild side to the very quiet and religious Richt during his college days with the Hurricanes, Martinez emphatically replied, "There was not."
Yet to bring up the marvelous Murray, he of the 11 touchdown passes, three interceptions and 191.1 passing efficiency rating thus far this season (former Auburn star Cam Newton holds the SEC record at 182.1) is to see Martinez light up.
"[Murray] missed most of his senior year in high school due to a leg injury," the coach recalled. "But he somehow found someone willing to let him play in the state title game. He went out and led Plant [Fla.] High School to the state championship on one leg. So you learned then how tough he was."
Not that Martinez wants to see that toughness on Saturday inside Neyland Stadium.
"I definitely hope Aaron doesn't play quite that well on Saturday," he said. "Maybe he'll get sick or something."
Jancek sounds like he's gotten sick just finding a way to slow down the Georgia offense, which is averaging over 550 yards a game despite having already faced No. 3 Clemson, No. 10 LSU and No. 13 South Carolina.
"Man, they're loaded," he said. "They're dynamic. They can hurt you from so many different positions."
That's the football side, the business side, the only side that Tennessee fans would prefer their coaches to take.
But after all those years in Athens, all those years in red and black and silver, aren't there a few keepsakes around the house, tucked in drawer, stuck in a closet?
"A lot of folks got Georgia Christmas presents the year we left," Jancek grinned. "I've still got a few things -- championship T-shirts and hats. Sugar Bowl shirts, stuff like that. But most of it was given away."
And his four children?
"Nobody's allowed to wear anything like that," he said. "But they can keep it if they want to."
Martinez sounds like a man who's worn his heart on his sleeve more than normal this week where his former co-workers at UGA are concerned.
"There's a lot of trash talking, period," he said with the slightest of grins.
But Jancek insists he's avoided that, as well as any side bets with members of the Bulldogs' staff.
"Not at all," he said.
But were the Big Orange to beat the Dawgs for the first time since 2009, when both Jancek and Martinez were running the UGA defense?
"There could be," he said. "There definitely could be."
Given the fact the Vols haven't beaten a ranked SEC opponent since 2009. a span of 18 such games, that would be quite unlike any other week a UT coaching staff has experienced in years.
Contact Mark Wiedmer at email@example.com.
Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...