When Josh Heupel was hired as the head coach of the Tennessee Vols last January, he spoke a lot about creating a “brotherhood” in UT’s locker room.

“There’s got to be a sense of belonging, a sense of brotherhood that has to reside in that locker room,” said Heupel at his introductory press conference earlier this year. “When you are connected you have a chance to love, when you have love you’re able to sacrifice for your teammates and this game is all about sacrifice.”

So far, that’s exactly the type of environment that Heupel has created at Tennessee.

And we received proof of that on Tuesday via a comment from Vols senior wide receiver Velus Jones Jr.

At the end of Tennessee’s loss to Ole Miss, backup quarterback Joe Milton, who was forced into the game due to an injury to starter Hendon Hooker on the game’s final drive, made an unwise play that ended the Vols’ chance at a come-from-behind win. With no time left on the clock, Milton ran out of bounds, ending the game and giving Ole Miss the win.

Jones was asked on Tuesday about his thoughts on the play.

And he couldn’t have been a better teammate.

Jones pointed out his own mistake in the game — a muffed punt in the first quarter that led to a Rebels touchdown — before saying “We still need Joe. Joe will be there for us”.

That’s the type of love and sacrifice that Heupel was talking about at his intro press conference.

It was obvious at the end of last season that the culture at Tennessee was in a bad place.

Heupel, however, has managed to turn it around completely in less than a year.

It can’t be overstated how impressive this has been. Heupel had a plan to change the culture and he executed it. That should give Vol fans a lot of hope for the future.

Featured image via Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK