Now that Butch Jones is no longer Tennessee’s head football coach, former players and others have been coming out with stories about Jones’ tenure at Tennessee. They feel more comfortable sharing their stories now that Jones is no longer overseeing the program.
And another such account has now come out.
Daniel Helm was a four-star tight end and a top 250 overall player in the country in the 2014 recruiting class according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. He elected to come to Tennessee over offers from Michigan, Wisconsin, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Iowa, and others.
Helm had a bright future with the Vols and showed flashes of it during his freshman season, catching six passes for 37 yards in limited action.
But Helm only lasted one season with Tennessee. And according to an email obtained by the Knoxville News Sentinel, Butch Jones was the reason why Helm left after just one year with the Vols.
Daniel Helm’s father, Steve, sent an email to then-UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek a year after his son had left. And in it, he detailed the reasons why he and his son elected to make the move.
“When my son, Daniel Helm, left UT, we said nothing to anyone as we knew as long as Butch was winning nobody would care or listen,” Helm stated in the email. “Daniel also loved the team and the school and didn’t want to cause trouble.”
Helm’s father would give several details about the decision to have his son transfer, but the most telling comes in his last paragraph of the email to Cheek.
“I made sure we got Daniel out of there before Jones put him in a place where Daniel might have knocked him out,” Helm wrote. “Then, my great straight A kid would have an assault charge. If a member of that football team does finally lose it with Jones and an assault charge is filed, we will provide authorities with everything we know as we will not let that man ruin a young kid’s life.”
What would’ve caused Daniel Helm to potentially assault Jones, his head coach? According to Helm’s father, the most blatant example was an incident after Tennessee’s 10-9 loss to Florida that season.
In the days following the game, the team met to look over film and discuss the game. According to Helm, one of the plays that was shown was when he, a true freshman tight end, was blindsided by a Florida defender.
And according to Helm, Jones repeatedly berated him about the play and used derogatory terms for female genitalia to describe Helm’s play. Helm’s father stated that Jones told Daniel that if he (Jones) had been blindsided like that he “would have taken out the player’s knees.”
Helm stated that his son wrote a prayer in his notebook to help “diffuse his anger” during the situation, but he later admitted to his father than he “wanted to hit Jones” during the moment.
“What angered Daniel the most was that he later blocked that same defender, driving him downfield and out of bounds,” Steve stated. “But Jones didn’t show that play.”
Once the season was over two months later, Helm transferred to Duke. After sitting out the 2015 season due to transfer rules, he’s gone on to have moderate success with the Blue Devils, catching 35 passes for 353 yards and three scores in 22 games at Duke.
Helm had a bright future as a recruit and could’ve gone to many other schools out of high school. But he chose Tennessee, and his father recalled that one of the reasons his son chose the Vols was because both of them believed Daniel would be playing for “a guy with integrity.” Jones showed up to Helm’s recruiting visit with a “well worn Bible” and quoted what he stated was his favorite verse in the Bible.
“Daniel wasn’t so naïeve to think that just because someone quoted the Bible, he was a great Christian,” Steve Helm said. “But he thought he was going to play for a guy with integrity.
“And it was nowhere to be found.”
This story comes a week after former Vol running back Marlin Lane and his father had some scathing remarks about Jones as well, with Lane stating he witnessed mental abuse at the hands of Jones during his time at Tennessee.
As time passes, more players may feel comfortable sharing their stories about Jones’ time at Tennessee. These two may not be the only stories that come out. But as more comes out, the clearer it becomes that Jones’ culture with the Vols was far from the family atmosphere he proclaimed it to be.