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Instant Credibility: Tennessee Benefiting From VFL Robert Ayers Jr. Back in the Building

Robert Ayers
VFL Robert Ayers Jr. Photo via Tennessee Athletics.

Despite only being on the coaching staff since the beginning of February, VFL Robert Ayers Jr. has already started to make an impact on the team and the players under him.

After an NFL career spanning nearly a decade, Ayers Jr. returned to East Tennessee as the defensive coordinator for Knoxville Catholic High School in 2021 before becoming the defensive coordinator for Oak Ridge High School in 2022. Ayers Jr. was then hired to be a defensive graduate assistant for the Volunteers on Feb. 7, 2023.

“I think Robert’s going to be a really good young coach,” Tennessee defensive line coach Rodney Garner said about Ayers Jr. “I’m really excited about him. Obviously, he’s got credibility instantly. He’s a first-round draft pick, played 10 years in the NFL.”

Ayers Jr., a former defensive lineman for the Volunteers from 2004 to 2008, was a first-round NFL Draft pick for the Denver Broncos in 2009. That also directly led to the former Tennessee standout having the chance to play in Super Bowl XLVIII alongside fellow VFL Peyton Manning in 2013.

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Ayers Jr. is now using all of that collegiate and professional experience to become a top-tier analyst with Tennessee. And considering the immediate credibility that he has when walking in the room, Ayers Jr. has certainly grabbed the attention of the Tennessee players, according to Garner.

“When he says something, those kids believe him and hang on to it,” Garner said. “He’s very passionate about it. He knows what he is talking about, so I think he’s only going to help us to get better and become a better football team. Hopefully, one of the things we said coming out of last season that we needed to improve on was being better on a four-down pass rush. Hopefully, he’ll be able to bring a lot of (insight) to that, to be able to help us improve in that area.”

Robert Ayers Jr. has played a lot of football in his day… 120 professional games in total, to be exact. Over the span of his nine years in the league, Ayers Jr. ended his career with 265 tackles, 108 quarterback hits, 51 tackles for loss, 34.5 sacks, and even scored a touchdown turning his first season in 2009.

As one of the standout Tennessee players of the mid-2000s and an AFC Champion in 2013, Ayers Jr. is now quickly climbing up the coaching tree as he finds himself back in spring camp with the Tennessee Volunteers football program.

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