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How a conversation with Velus Jones Jr. changed Jalin Hyatt's approach with Tennessee football

The Knoxville News-Sentinel logo The Knoxville News-Sentinel 8/13/2022 Mike Wilson, Knoxville News Sentinel
Tennessee wide receiver Jalin Hyatt (11) scores a touchdown past Purdue safety Cam Allen (10) at the 2021 Music City Bowl NCAA college football game at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn. on Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021. © Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel Tennessee wide receiver Jalin Hyatt (11) scores a touchdown past Purdue safety Cam Allen (10) at the 2021 Music City Bowl NCAA college football game at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn. on Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021.

Jalin Hyatt spent two years around Velus Jones Jr. in the Tennessee football wide receivers room.

But one conversation before Jones departed for the NFL Draft stands out for Hyatt.

“He sat me down, because he knew I was going through stuff, especially last year,” Hyatt said. “He sat me down, told me what you can do out of this offense, watched film together. This is all before he left."

Jones parlayed his final season at Tennessee — his only one in Josh Heupel’s up-tempo offense — into being a third-round pick by the Chicago Bears. He showed Hyatt what was possible, then made sure Hyatt knew how it happened.

It was one of the many moments that flipped Hyatt’s mindset in the past season as he readies for a potential breakout junior season.

“Last year taught me when you don’t play to the standard you need to be at, you are going to be on the sideline,” Hyatt said.

Hyatt had 21 receptions for 226 yards and two touchdowns as a sophomore after having 20 receptions for 276 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman in 2020. It wasn't the breakout season many anticipated, nor what Hyatt expected. 

He lost confidence. He felt like he was playing for stats instead of having fun. He was worried about things he said he shouldn’t be worried about. He saw Jones and Cedric Tillman have breakout seasons while he slipped into a complementary role instead of being a key cog in the offense.

“The cool thing about that is Jalin Hyatt saw that firsthand and I am sure that has some part of why he is urgent,” Pope said.

Hyatt admits he doesn’t think he got the most out of every day last season. That prevented him from reaching the standard he expected. 

The Irmo, South Carolina, product came back this spring with a new approach. He seeks to put forth his best effort daily and make each day count. He said he has been locked in and wakes up circling the first game — his first opportunity to showcase the changes he and the UT coaches have talked about throughout the offseason. 

“I think, motivation-wise, I just want to have a better season for me," Hyatt said. "I felt like last season, that wasn’t what I did, as far as when I play. I want to do well for my teammates. They’re always there. I love every guy here, and I think that’s one of the reasons why."

Jones stepped into the slot receiver role last season, which Hyatt said he couldn’t do at the time. He believes he is ready to the best slot receiver in the nation now and part of the reason why is that conversation with Jones that helped Hyatt lock in on finding his potential at UT.

“We still haven’t even played a game yet,” Hyatt said. “That is why I am still going. I wanted to keep trying to go hard every day. Even if I am at home watching film, I want to go 100 percent every day.”

Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at michael.wilson@knoxnews.com and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it. 

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: How a conversation with Velus Jones Jr. changed Jalin Hyatt's approach with Tennessee football

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