Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt has held steady life-focused meetings with his players in recent months.

There have been meetings about drugs, alcohol and respecting women, many of which took place through the summer months.

On Monday, speaker Rachel Baribeau came to Knoxville to talk to the Vols, and part of her message pertained to how to treat women.

“I think it had a big impact on us,” linebacker Darrell Taylor said. “It shows us how to be more respectful to women and how to stand up for women and how to take care of women on an everyday basis.”

Baribeau, who also works as an ESPN radio personality, is the founder of Changing The Narrative.

She travels to college campuses to speak to student-athletes, sharing messages centered on three principles: purpose, passion and platform. She also makes a point to discuss how to treat women, which led to her appearance as the latest speaker in Tennessee preseason practices.

“That’s important to us. It’s important to our society,” Pruitt said. “I know Rachel. She spoke at a place I was at before. I think she does a really good job. Every night (during camp), we bring in speakers, whether it’s about being a leader or being a good teammate.

“She did a really good job the other day, and we’ve had a lot of good speakers this fall camp.”

Pruitt dismissed redshirt freshman linebacker Ryan Thaxton after an arrest on charges of domestic assault and false imprisonment in July. The first-year UT coach said at SEC Media Days the Vols are “not going to tolerate” violence against women.

Junior offensive lineman Brandon Kennedy previously heard Baribeau speak during his time at Alabama – the visit Pruitt alluded to. Kennedy said much of the message remained consistent, while saying it remains relevant and key.

“It’s very important to create a great atmosphere in the locker room,” Kennedy said. “You don’t want any bad things. So that was good from Rachel.”

Baribeau’s focus also is on the players becoming well-rounded men in society. She likes to call them to be “kings” and conduct themselves accordingly.

Part of that means a sense of accountability among a team, which long snapper Riley Lovingood pointed to as the most important part of the message for him. The junior hopes that leads to the Vols staying on track both on and off the field.

“We really just focus on us and what we control here,” Lovingood said. “If I keep my brother next to me and beside me accountable – and we are all doing that across the line – then we shouldn’t have any worries about that. That’s the culture we are creating here with Coach Pruitt.”

By Mike Wilson

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