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Tennessee Names Fitzgerald’s Replacement as Strength Coach

(Photo via Caleb Jones/Tennessee Athletics)

Tennessee head football coach Jeremy Pruitt has found his replacement for strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald, who took the head strength and conditioning job with the New York Giants back in March.

Pruitt named A.J. Artis the new director of Football Sports Performance on Monday afternoon. Artis worked on Tennessee’s strength staff under Fitzgerald the past two seasons.

“I would like thank Coach Pruitt and Coach Fulmer for the opportunity to lead a great group of young men,” Artis said in Tennessee’s press release. “I will give my all to our student-athletes and the Tennessee football program. I am excited for this opportunity and look forward to helping Vol football continue its resurgence.”

Artis spent two seasons at Duke working as assistant director of strength and conditioning prior to arriving in Knoxville in 2018. At Duke, he primarily trained the football and field hockey programs. He also worked with several other varsity sports.

The Eden, North Carolina native played collegiate football at Campbell University. Artis played wide receiver and tight end as a Fighting Camel before graduating with a degree in exercise science in 2015. He later earned a master’s degree in exercise science from Appalachian State in 2017 while working with the Mountaineers football program as a graduate assistant. Artis also oversaw strength and conditioning for the Mountaineers’ field hockey and golf programs.

“A.J. understands the standard we expect in this role and will continue to push our strength and conditioning efforts to the forefront of college football,” Pruitt said. “Since he first joined our staff in 2018, he has helped instill physical and mental toughness in our program through his contagious energy, hard work, and innovation. Our players have tremendous respect for him, and I have no doubt they will continue to develop under his mentorship.”

Artis’ staff will consist of assistant strength coaches Byron Jerideau, Mike Farrell, and Shaq Wilson. Each assistant is entering their third season with the football program.

Another former Vol coach had the opportunity to work with Artis at Duke, and he thinks UT made a smart choice in the promotion.

“First and foremost, congratulations to A.J,” Duke head coach David Cutcliffe added in a statement. “I couldn’t be more excited for A.J. and this opportunity – I know he’ll be a terrific representative of the University of Tennessee and its football program.

“From our initial encounter at Duke, I was impressed with his personal drive to be successful and doing things the right way. A.J. is an excellent communicator, is very knowledgeable about college football as it pertains to strength and conditioning, and has a very strong passion for helping young men achieve success.”

Tennessee’s football team returned to campus last Monday, June 8th. Artis has been leading workouts upon the player’s return and helped guide them while they were at home for nearly three months due to COVID-19.

Artis’ salary has not been revealed at this time, but he was making under $100,000 as an assistant strength coach according to UT’s salary database. Fitzgerald was one of the highest-paid strength coaches in college football before departing for the NFL, making $625,000 in 2019.

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