Pruitt hails Terry Fair's coaching 'poise,' player resume
No assistant coach on Tennessee's staff has the head coach looking over his shoulder more than Terry Fair.
The former All-American with the Vols and NFL first-round draft pick coaches Tennessee's cornerbacks, the position first-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt was most hands-on with during spring practices.
Fair is one of the few coaches on Tennessee's staff who hadn't previously worked with Pruitt, though he had a connection to Pruitt through Will Friend from their stint at Colorado State and to Tennessee from his playing days under Phillip Fulmer, now the athletic director in Knoxville.
"One thing I'll say about Terry is Terry has poise," Pruitt said last week. "He's probably got the worst position to coach, because I'm over there with him all the time. He's a smart guy, picks things up really fast. He has a way about him with young men.
"He's demanding, and the thing about Terry Fair is this: For eight years, he played the position at the highest level. So either he played it the right way, or he had to find a job or go to work. So to do that, you get good at your craft. To me that's the great thing about having him in the room."
Tennessee's coaching setup in the secondary essentially includes three coaches for the two positions with Fair and Pruitt handling the cornerbacks and former Florida State defensive coordinator Charles Kelly the safeties.
Though his coaching resume doesn't include as much longevity or experience at big-time programs as Kelly and Pruitt, Fair can boast one of the most prolific playing careers of any coach on the staff.
Fair was a four-year starter at Tennessee and his resume included two All-SEC selections as a defensive back and one as a punt returner, plus he was an SEC All-Freshman team pick and played a prominent role on the Vols' 1997 SEC championship team.
He was the No. 20 overall pick in the 1998 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions and spent six years with the team, earning NFL All-Rookie and first-team All-NFL honors before finishing his career with the Panthers (2002) and Rams (2005).
Fair was working in radio when former Tennessee coach Butch Jones gave him a role on his support staff as a quality control coach who helped coach defensive backs in 2013 and 2014, and he parlayed those two years in a full-time job at Colorado State on Mike Bobo's staff the past three years.
According to Pruitt, Fair's playing career gives him instant credibility with players and recruits.
"He got his degree, All-American, I think, first-round pick," he said, "and then goes out there and plays for either six or eight years and plays at a high level. Most of the guys that you go recruit, most of the guys that are on this team, they would love to do what he's done. If you could say, 'Hey, give me that,' they'd say, 'I'll take it right now.'
"I think that's probably a huge deal."