Florida head coach Billy Napier is quite familiar with the Tennessee Volunteers.
Yes, Napier did coach against the Vols in Neyland Stadium during his first season last year, but his connection to Rocky Top and the Volunteer State goes back well beyond last September.
Napier was born in Cookeville, Tennessee, before moving to Chatsworth, Georgia at the age of two. Napier’s dad grew up in Celina, Tennessee while his mother’s family is from Sparta, Tennessee. Both of Napier’s parents graduated from Tennessee Tech. The now-44-year-old coach played quarterback for his dad at Murray County High School while his family turned their attention to another team on Saturdays.
“Obviously my dad’s family is from Tennessee, right?” Napier said during a press conference to start the week. “I’ve got a couple uncles and cousins that have never missed a Tennessee game, right? They’ve flown all over the country to watch them play.
“Well-versed in this one,” Napier said with a grin.
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After spending a five-year stretch at Clemson as a position coach and offensive coordinator during the span of 2006 to 2010, Napier was hired as an offensive analyst for Nick Saban’s Alabama team entering the 2011 season. Alabama defeated Derek Dooley’s Tennessee Volunteers by a score of 37-6 in Tuscaloosa that year.
Napier left Alabama after the 2011 season to become the associate head coach and quarterbacks coach at Colorado State during the 2012 season. After one season with the Rams, though, Napier would return to Tuscaloosa to become the Tide’s wide receivers coach from 2013 to 2016. The Tide went 4-0 against Tennessee in those years with two of Napier’s wins coming in Neyland Stadium.
The Florida Gators hired Billy Napier as head coach prior to the 2022 season. Napier’s first big SEC game on the road? None other than a return to his birth state for a matchup with the then-red-hot Tennessee Volunteers.
“Man, I’ve got all kinds of family that are diehard Tennessee fans,” Napier said prior to the Vols and Gators’ 2022 matchup in Knoxville. “So, yeah. My uncle’s family and all that crew, living in Crossville. My mom and dad went to Tennessee Tech. We moved to Georgia when I was about two years old. So my mom’s parents owned a tobacco farm in Sparta, Tennessee. My dad grew up in Celina, Tennessee. So yeah, know all about the Vols for sure.”
Josh Heupel’s Vols defeated Billy Napier’s Gators last season by a score of 38-33 in Knoxville. Hendon Hooker and Anthony Richardson’s offensive units combined for nearly 1,200 yards of total offense in that game. This year’s contest isn’t projecting to be such an offensive explosion as the Vols look to break a nine-game road losing streak in Gainesville.
Florida will host No. 11 Tennessee at 7:00 p.m. ET in Gainesville this Saturday night on ESPN.