Let’s face it. Had you told any Tennessee fan in Super Bowl LVIII that Jauan Jennings was going to be a strong consideration for Super Bowl MVP one day, you would have received a Big Orange chuckle. Well, now the laugh is on the doubters.
Jennings, the standout San Francisco 49ers threw a 21-yard touchdown pass on a trick play, caught another touchdown pass and three other passes for a total of 42 yards and was what Tennessee fans learned to appreciate, a fiery leader that isn’t afraid of anyone. Not even his coaches.
That fieriness was on display during his junior season at Tennessee when he tore into Tennessee’s coaching staff about not playing him at quarterback in 2017, calling them “liars” and generally coming unhinged. He was then dismissed from the team before being reinstated under the next coaching staff, led by Jeremy Pruitt. Now, let’s be honest: that was a little crazy.
The most surreal aspect of Jennings’ career is how he can still play with such fire and passion, but not flame out, as he almost did in 2017. Despite a 25-22 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in which he played well, Jennings is one of the kind of players you want on your side. Jennings had a chippiness that served him well. The Vols could use more of that. Former UT quarterback Hendon Hooker certainly inspired fans and teammates when he’d come off the turf with fury in his eyes.
To be frank, I don’t see a player ready to grab onto the emotional reigns and lead the Vols to a championship quite yet. There may not be one single player to be the emotional fire, but there are plenty than can stoke the blaze when needed to on offense, such as center Cooper Mays, receiver Bru McCoy and, perhaps sooner than later, quarterback Nico Iamaleava.
It’s funny how bad coaching can make a player look so bad as Tennessee’s staff did with Jennings. He looked like a malcontent. Now, Jennings looks like the perfect person to lead a crew that has lacked a true vocal leader. Jennings wouldn’t be afraid to do that, on the field or on social media.