Shawn Witten to work under Sanders at UT   

By Wes Holtsclaw
star staff
wholtsclaw@starhq.com

  Shawn Witten will embrace a different coat of orange.
  The former Elizabethton and Virginia Tech football standout recently accepted a graduate assistant position with the University of Tennessee, where he will be the understudy of the team's offensive coordinator, Randy Sanders.
  "I'm going to be assisting Randy Sanders with the offense, maybe working with the receivers and quarterbacks, the skill groups, breaking down coverages and things like that," said the former Hokie wide receiver on Saturday.
  Witten, who graduated from Blacksburg in December, began searching for coaching positions.
  He wrote letters, sent out resumes and made phone calls along with visits and meetings.
  The Volunteers came calling with a graduate assistant spot to help out in the recruitment of future Volunteers. However, the slot was not to be, as another opening became available two weeks ago.
  "Finally, a position came open at UT and I was able to get in the door," Shawn said. "I had a lot of help with Jason knowing Coach Brooks and a lot of the coaches down there. I got in recruiting and thought I would be working there and then two weeks ago, I got another promotion and was moved up."
  "I'm really looking forward to it. It's kind of a step up," he said. "I'm looking forward to the chance to work with (Coach) Sanders and be his highest assistant and learn that football knowledge from him."
  The former Cyclone star will begin his role with the team on July 6. He is following a line of Virginia Tech athletes who have went on to coach at Tennessee, most recently with Shane Beamer, the son of Tech coach Frank Beamer.
  "Coach Beamer's son was there last year and the year before, and now he's at Mississippi State, which is a good job," Witten said. "(Coaching) is something I want to do. I'm going to get my foot in the door and see if I like it. If not, then I can come back this way eventually.
  "There's a lot of people who have been in the same position and ended up with the jobs they have wanted or great jobs," he said. "UT's a great opportunity place. People are always coming in and out. It's a great place to be, and the people you meet is something you can't take away."
  Witten's brother and former Tennessee tight end, Jason Witten, believes that Shawn will make a solid impression in Knoxville.
  "I'm excited for him. He's taught me a lot in football with his work ethic," Jason said. "I've learned a lot from him and I think he's really going to hit it off down there because he knows so much about the game."
  "He's just so eager to learn more and more," he said. "I think with Coach Sanders and those guys, he'll be able to help them out with C.J. and Rick Clausen at quarterback. I look for big things out of him."
  Shawn definitely has a successful coaching background within the family, with the success of his grandfather, former Elizabethton coach Dave Rider and his uncle, Scott Rider.
  He has always had a dream of coaching at the college level.
  "A lot of people just play and coach high school, then you get in college and find out what all you get," he said. "In college ball, you get a little more prestige and you get to travel a bit. There's a lot of values in it."
  "I'd like to go out to kids homes and recruit, and come back to this area," he said. "Hopefully, there's some place in the future in coaching college."
  First things first, Witten plans on learning the system and getting adjusted to the new role.
  "Basically I'm just going in there with my ears open trying to learn everything I can," said Shawn. "Learning a different system is going to help me out. Coach Sanders is just a step down from Coach Fulmer. If there's a guy to work for, it's probably him. One day he's probably going to be a head coach."
  "You've got to start at the bottom and I'm looking forward to it. It's just been a blessing."