Former Vols form tight network of player personnel roles across college football

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Brandon Lawson, a former U.S. Marine who helped guard President George W. Bush as part of the HMX-1 helicopter squadron during the 43rd president’s term, found himself in an abandoned janitor’s closet, tucked deep in the second-floor catacombs of the University of Tennessee’s Neyland-Thompson Sports Center.

Matt Transue, years later, would be selling season baseball tickets for St. Louis Cardinals Triple-A affiliate Memphis Redbirds.

“Yeah, you know what, I would say just about every day I do pinch myself; it’s pretty surreal,” said Transue, who owns previous stints at both Tennessee and Memphis in their personnel departments. “It’s a testament to hard work and dedication and every single day I’m very, very grateful to show up to work at a Top-25 college program, and I try to give my all to make it a little better each and every day.”

Dishwashing likewise was among the duties of Will Redmond, Trey Johnson, Matt Wilson, Mike Ferrera and Spencer Grubbs, among others, as they toiled behind-the-scenes of Volunteers football recruiting the past several years.

Noteworthy why?

Today, across college football, former Tennessee recruiting hands form a nationwide Big Orange evergreen personnel tree. Lawson is UCF’s Director of Player Personnel; his top assistant, Marc Votteler, and UCF’s director of on-campus recruiting, Makenzie Franklin, also are Tennessee graduates.

Transue helps run the show for ACC standard-bearer Virginia Tech; Johnson is the assistant director of player personnel at the University of Southern California while Wilson is settling in at top-20 Mississippi State as the Bulldogs’ director of personnel for first-year coach Joe Moorhead.

Redmond tops a Middle Tennessee State program that projects as a Conference USA contender. Mike Ferrara is Texas A&M’s second-year assistant director of player personnel and Spencer Grubbs is Old Dominion’s assistant director of recruiting.

Former NFL scout and ex-UT personnel director Bob Welton now runs the show for Nick Saban at Alabama, and his predecessor, Scott Altizer, is Chattanooga’s deputy athletics director. Tim Baggett is Liberty’s assistant director of player personnel, and Haley Schaafsma is Vanderbilt’s assistant recruiting coordinator.

Lastly, Atlanta Falcons’ scouting assistant Rich Sanders traces his origins to three years’ working in the Volunteers’ football program.

“I mean, crazy!,” Wilson, whose grandfather was a scout for both the Colts and Steelers, told GridIronNow.com. “Literally, when I got to UConn, me and I think Coach (Paul) Pasqualoni was real forward-thinking, we were doing advance scouting. There wasn’t a director of player personnel, there wasn’t a director of recruiting; that was a coach who had the title. There wasn’t even a title and to now, and I think Ed (Marynowitz) from what he talked about at the Personnel Symposium) held earlier this month in Nashville), I think we’re going to get organized and get a seat at the table.

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