KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Bob Welton was working for the Cleveland Browns, living in Boise, Idaho, and enjoying life as an NFL scout.
But when Butch Jones called him up with an offer to come to Tennessee as the Vols’ new director of personnel, Welton decided to make the switch.
“When he asked me to come here, I was like, ‘This is the one guy I can’t say no to,'” Welton said in an interview. “I’ve had chances before to leave, but I was happy in the NFL. The NFL is great. Everything is good about it — the pay, the insurance, the benefits. I loved it. When he called, my wife was like, ‘We’re doing what?’ I said, ‘No, wait until you meet him. This is going to be awesome.'”
I spoke with Welton for my story about the evolution of the administration structure in college football, but there was plenty of good stuff that didn’t make the cut. Also, check out my interview with new UT administrator Mike Vollmar.
Q: You got to know Butch coming up the ranks as a high school coach in Michigan. Did you cross paths with any other current UT coaches along the way.
Bob Welton: Surprisingly when this staff took over at Central Michigan I was already gone. So the only other guy that I’ve worked with is Willie Martinez. And that’s only because he was in Oklahoma and I was (scouting) Oklahoma. Willie was a great resource in Oklahoma on players and somebody I respected for a long time.
Q: How did you go from high school coach to NFL scout?
Bob Welton: I played at Adrian College, a small school in Michigan. My college coach, Ron Labadie, got a job as a scout with the Dolphins. In my first coaching job as an assistant in high school, I coached both of his sons. So, our relationship was pretty strong. When he became the director of scouting for the Dolphins, he approached me and said, ‘Hey, did you ever think about scouting?’ I said, “Hey, that sounds good”.
He couldn’t hire me because he had no openings but a friend of his called from Cleveland. Pete Garcia was with the Butch Davis crew and they were looking for scouts. Ron told them, ‘I’ve got a guy that I think can be really good. I can’t hire him this year, but I’m going to hire him as soon as I can.” I flew out to Cleveland and got the job.
Q: You said you liked Boise a lot. Has Knoxville been different?
Bob Welton: It’s so funny because (former UT defensive coordinator) Justin Wilcox was here. He’s a good friend of mine and I knew him from Boise. So when it was kind of looking like this job might happen, I called Justin just to get a lay of the land and people. He said right away, ‘You’re going to love Knoxville. Outside of Boise, it’s is my second favorite place.’ So that made me feel good.