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De’Rail Sims Remembers Tennessee Being ‘Running Back U’ With the Likes of Lewis and Stephens

De'Rail Sims
Tennessee RB coach De’Rail Sims. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

De’Rail Sims had a funny notion that he would wind up coaching at the University of Tennessee one day.

Sims, a native of Union, South Carolina, was officially named Tennessee’s running backs coach heading into the 2024 season on Feb. 20 in replacement of former assistant coach Jerry Mack. The 38-year-old has been in the coaching game since the 2010 season and most recently spent the 2023 season as the running back’s coach at Cincinnati. Prior to that, Sims coached at Louisville, East Carolina, and James Madison, among other programs while climbing the ranks.

Rewind to the 2015 season for a moment.

On a sunny and hot Saturday afternoon in September 2015, Sims and the Western Carolina football team traveled to Knoxville for a 7:00 p.m. game against Butch Jones’ Tennessee Volunteers. While Tennessee did erupt for the big 55-10 win over the Catamounts, Sims’ running back unit collected 189 yards on the ground throughout the game – an impressive accomplishment amid a blowout loss.

“The number one thing I remember is that we got our tail ran out of the stadium,” Sims said during his opening press conference on Monday. “Honestly, it’s kind of been this way my whole entire career. God has always given me a preview of places that I’ll end up. I had a little feeling when I was here that night. I didn’t know at what point in time that would happen, but I had a feeling at some point in time it would. All I had to do was work hard, and it came true.”

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That 2015 game wasn’t Sims’ first interaction with Tennessee.

As a kid, Sims remembers watching the Big Orange’s offense power down the field behind memorable fan-favorite running backs from the 90s and 2000s.

“When I was growing up, being able to watch them on Saturdays, and in my opinion it was RBU (Running Back University),” Sims said. “You turn around and you watch Jamal Lewis when I was growing up, Travis Stephens when I was growing up. Seeing them run through that Power T to come in here, and they were beating up on everybody. It was one of those deals that you had admiration for the program. It was one of those deals that I wanted to come here and play, but I wasn’t good enough to play here. I had a teammate in high school that played here. I always had very, very fond memories of watching Tennessee on television.”

Sims will make his first appearance on the Tennessee coaching staff for the Vols’ spring camp in March, followed by the Orange & White spring game on April 13. What can fans expect out of Sims in his first year on Rocky Top, though?

“High energy, detail-oriented,” Sims said about his coaching style. “I’m going to push my guys to their full potential. The thing about us is we’re always going to be aggressive as a unit and do things the right way. That’s the No. 1 deal. We want to be detail-oriented, we want to be fast, we want to be physical and we want to play aggressive.”

Stay tuned to Rocky Top Insider throughout March for more Tennessee football coverage from spring camp.

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One Response

  1. He rose through the ranks? LOL. He bounced around for 20 years at no-name, bottom tier schools and Tennessee hands him the keys to half of the offense? What a joke.

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