Raiders' Jon Gruden surprises online statistics class at Tennessee

ByChris Low ESPN logo
Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Raiderscoach Jon Gruden made a virtual appearance at the University of Tennessee on Friday, but he wasn't trying to get any "grumors" started or angling for a coaching job.

Like Peyton Manning a few weeks ago, Gruden made a surprise appearance online in an Introduction to Statistics class at UT and encouraged students to stay strong, stay positive and keep working during the coronavirus pandemic.

Gruden is entering his third season as the Raiders' head coach. While serving as color analyst on Monday Night Football, Gruden developed an obsession of sorts with Tennessee fans, many of whom clamored for him to be the Vols' head coach any time the job came open over the past decade.

It became such a phenomenon on Rocky Top that there were alleged Gruden sightings all over the Knoxville area, and some fans insisted he was giving hints that he was taking the job if there was a splash of orange in his tie during a Monday Night Football telecast -- hence the term "grumors."

Gruden's online visit with the UT students in Professor Missy Morris' class was lighthearted, and he told them, "Just know that we're counting on all you young people to lead the charge when we come out [of the pandemic]."

Gruden has strong Tennessee ties. He served as a graduate assistant under Johnny Majors in the mid-1980s. His wife, Cindy, was a cheerleader for the Vols, and their middle son, Michael, is a recent UT graduate.

After returning to coaching with the Raiders, Gruden said he was never close to becoming Tennessee's head coach, but he emphasized that he has always had strong feelings for the Vols. He reiterated as much to the students.

"I'm a huge Tennessee fan," Gruden told the class. He later added, "Some of my best memories are right down there on Cumberland Avenue."

The Cumberland Avenue "Strip" is an area right off campus that includes several restaurants, bars and other businesses.

Among the funnier moments involving Gruden and the class were his struggles with Zoom. Soon after he popped in online, he introduced himself as Jon Gruden, coach of the Raiders, and joked that he didn't have a lot of time because he was getting ready for the NFL draft.

"I'm a little confused. Nobody can see me, huh?" Gruden said while trying to get linked up so he could see everybody. "Thank God, my wife helped me."

Morris made sure to show Gruden her "Spider 2 Y Banana" T-shirt, featuring a playcall and formation Gruden famously trumpeted on Monday Night Football.

"You are a crazy lady," Gruden shot back, laughing. "I wish I had you as a professor. I would have gotten a lot better grades."

Gruden told the class that he would check back in a couple of weeks, and he kidded Vols running back and leading returning rusher Ty Chandler, who was in the class.

"I don't know if Chandler is awake yet," Gruden said, and Chandler assured Gruden that he was, albeit with his hair looking a "little wild" due to the quarantine.

On his way out, Gruden again stumbled with the Zoom technology.

"I don't know how to sign out. I don't know if I can get out of here," he said.

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