Aaron Ausmus is happy to be back home again.
Ending weeks of speculation and Internet rumors, the 34-year-old LaFollette native has been hired by the University of Tennessee as director of strength and conditioning for men’s intercollegiate athletics.
He will be responsible for all of the major and minor sports, including football, basketball, baseball and track. Ausmus began his career as a strength and conditioning graduate assistant on the Vols’ 1998 national championship football team.
He officially began his second stint at UT on Monday morning.
“Since I’ve been back on campus, it’s been like walking down memory lane,” said Ausmus, a former UT track and field All-American.
His primary focus right now is preparing the Vols’ football team for the rigors of a Southeastern Conference schedule, and he doesn’t have a lot of time to do it.
“You want to get these types of jobs over Christmas break or in early January. By this time of year, it’s really rolling,” said Ausmus.
“You wish you had those five or six months back.
“But I’m really excited about it. It’s a great opportunity.”
Ausmus graduated from Campbell County High School in 1993 after winning state titles in both shot put and discus as a member of the Cougars’ track and field team.
He walked on at UT, where he earned a scholarship in track and field. In 1997, he won an NCAA indoor championship in shot put and finished his career as a two-time All-America.
Ausmus married his college sweetheart, Andrea Pappas of Gwinnett County, Ga., who is also a former All-America shot putter for the Lady Vols. The couple have two young boys.
Ausmus earned his undergraduate degree from UT in 1998, then returned to pursue a master’s degree in sport management, which he was awarded a year later.
After serving as a part-time assistant at UT from 2000-01, Ausmus got his first big break when he was hired as the top assistant strength and conditioning coach at the University of Southern California.
While at USC, Ausmus helped build the Trojans into a national championship program by 2003.
Being part of a successful program at USC helped Ausmus land his first head strength and conditioning job — at the University of Idaho — in 2004.
A year later, he joined the staff of football coach Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss, where he served for three seasons until Orgeron left.
Earlier this year, Ausmus was named head strength and conditioning coach at the University of North Texas.
When Lane Kiffin was hired last November as UT’s head football coach, he chose Orgeron as one of his top assistants.
Kiffin, Orgeron and Ausmus had worked together at USC.
So, when Ausmus received an offer to join his former colleagues at UT, he jumped at the chance.
“I was very fortunate and very honored to be part of a national championship team at USC,” said Ausmus.
“I really felt like I was a big part of it.”
He hopes to be a part of something equally special at Tennessee.