Over the past 20 Tennessee football games, no Vol has been more productive than senior wide receiver Jauan Jennings.
The Tennessee native has hauled in 72 catches for 1,090 yards and 10 touchdowns in the Vols’ last 20 games dating back to the start of last season. That’s good enough for 15.1 yards per catch and 54.5 yards per game. Following his seven-catch, 174-yard and two touchdown performance against South Carolina over the weekend, he’s up to 129 career catches, 1,836 career receiving yards, and 17 career touchdown catches. Those numbers are good enough to rank 10th in program history in receiving yards, sixth all-time in career receptions, and tied for eighth in touchdown catches.
Jennings is beloved by Tennessee fans, and it started for many dating back to 2016 when he caught the Hail Mary against Georgia to win the game. The catch came a week after Jennings went off against Florida and burned Jalen “Teez” Tabor on a long touchdown catch, cementing his name in Tennessee lore.
“From my standpoint, I’ve always loved Tennessee,” Jennings said this week. “I’m from Tennessee, you know what I’m saying? My family are Tennessee fans. Growing up, Tennessee has always been instilled in me and made me the person I am today. I kind of take that with me when I go out and play football on the field.
“It just means everything to me, and hopefully one day we’ll see Tennessee on top.”
The outstanding finish to Jennings’ career he’s currently putting together almost never happened, however. In 2017, after Butch Jones was fired, Brady Hoke dismissed the wide receiver from the team following a profanity-laced tirade on Instagram that was directed towards UT’s coaches.
When Jeremy Pruitt took over as the Vols’ head coach, one of his first orders of business was sitting down and meeting with Jennings in order to make a decision on whether or not to allow him back on the football team.
“I didn’t know anything about Jauan Jennings,” Pruitt said on Monday during his press conference. “I knew him as an opposing player on another team. When I got the job, there were some details about what all happened here, and I asked a lot of people in the building what they thought, and most of them that said they wouldn’t let him come back, they don’t work here anymore. The people that said to let him come back; they all work here.
“When you start talking to the players that played on the team, the Trey Smiths, the Daniel Bitulis, and they say, ‘Coach, we want this guy on our team.’ So, I knew enough about those guys in recruiting to know that they knew what was right and what was wrong.”
Pruitt, along with athletic director Phillip Fulmer, eventually allowed Jennings back on the team. Not without a numbers of things that would be required of him to meet, though.
“He’s done everything that we’ve asked him to do,” Pruitt said. “It goes to show you that when you get second chances, sometimes people make the most of them, and Jauan Jennings has made the most of his chances here this second time around.
“I said it after the game (on Saturday): He’s going to graduate in December, so good for him. He’s had a great senior year. I know he wants to finish it on a positive note, and he’s going to leave his mark at the University Of Tennessee not only as a football player, but as a person, a person with character who’s a leader and has given his all for the University of Tennessee.”
Jennings has four games remaining as a Vol, possibly five if he can will this team to a bowl game. At this point, who would bet against him doing just that?