There’s a small thing (small in the grand scheme of the program) that’s happening at Tennessee in 2022 that’s going to massively help 2023 5-star Vols commit Nico Iamaleava when he arrives in Knoxville next season.

Iamaleava will never play on the same team as current Vols quarterback Hendon Hooker. But the foundation that Hooker is helping set in the quarterbacks room at Tennessee is something that will impact Iamaleava in the future.

Hooker and backup quarterback Joe Milton have become extremely close friends. That friendship extends to the meeting room and the practice field where the two quarterbacks are constantly pushing each other to be better.

True freshman quarterback Tayven Jackson has a front-row seat for the relationship between Hooker and Milton. And because of that, Jackson will be able to help make sure that the culture those two have created at Tennessee will continue for years to come.

Tennessee Vols
Quarterback Hendon Hooker throws passes during Tennessee football spring practice at University of Tennessee on Saturday, March 26, 2022.
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Vols quarterbacks coach Joey Halzle spoke a bit about that culture on Tuesday during a media session with reporters.

“Joe and Hendon have a real relationship, not just on the field, but off it,” said Halzle. “They’ve become really, really close friends so that they compete with each other every day. It’s like growing up, you always want to beat your best friend, but it’s always in a positive light. And that positivity, that positive energy, has really just translated into our QB room, and Tayven’s walked right into that and it’s been a good environment for him.”

Halzle specifically talked about the impact that the relationship between Hooker and Milton has had on Jackson as well.

“That’s huge for a young quarterback because he’s got two guys above him that not just are in the building doing what they need to do every day, but guys that have also played, so they can talk to, ‘This is what it’s like on game day. This is how you have to prepare.’ That’s so uncommon, and that’s a huge benefit that he’s getting coming in because he can just sit and then listen to these guys talk, and get stuff from them. And they’re both very positive with him. They’re not beating him down. They kind of rib at him sometimes, like you would a little brother. But it’s all positive, and it speaks, again, to the culture that we not only have in this building but specifically in that room.”

When Iamaleava arrives on campus either later this year or early next year, he’ll be entering a quarterbacks room that has one of the best cultures in the SEC. That’s going to be huge for his development.

Nico might not be in Knoxville yet, but his success at Tennessee is being shaped by what’s happening at UT before he even gets to campus.

Featured image via Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK