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Nico Iamaleava impressing people with 'no entitlement' approach

On3 imageby:Andrew Graham07/06/23


With Joe Milton and Nico Iamaleava on hand, Tennessee has some top-shelf talent in the quarterback room. And despite his outwardly flashy approach during his recruitment, the true freshman Iamaleava has acquitted himself well with humility and hard work in Knoxville.

Volquest’s Brent Hubbs got together with On3’s Andy Staples to dig into the dynamics around Iamaleava in a recent On3 Roundtable. He’s a former five-star recruit who the fans will surely want to see as soon as possible, but Hubbs explained that Iamaleava isn’t getting ahead of himself — and fans shouldn’t think he will any time soon, either.

“Here’s what I’ll say about Nico, because I think there’s a stigma about Nico because of NIL discussions and the ranking, and the pajama pants the wraparound sunglasses and some of those things that Nico’s a huge primadonna,” Hubbs said. “I will say this, as much as you’re impressed by what Joe Milton did at the Orange Bowl, I was equally as impressed with how Nico handled himself upon arrival at Tennessee and how he’s handled himself the last seven, eight months. No entitlement, back of the line, learning, wanting to learn, spending a bunch of time with Joe Milton and working. And knowing he’s gotta go to work and get ready to play.”

He continued: “I’ve been really impressed with his maturity and I can tell you this. There are people in the building who weren’t coaches who were a little bit skeptical about what his attitude would be like. They’ve been extremely impressed, as well. I think Nico has a firm understand of where he is, what he needs to work on.”

However, with Iamaleava still carrying his elite recruiting pedigree, fans will be clamoring for him to play sooner, rather than later.

And with Milton’s past struggles as a starter well documented, Hubbs knows the calls for a swap at signal caller might come after the first Milton miss on a deep ball.

“But if Joe Milton overthrows somebody in that Virginia game, I guarantee you Twitter’s going to be lining up. My messages are going to be lining up with ‘Let’s get Nico in the game.’ Because everybody loves the backup quarterback, particularly the highly-rated ones. And he’s pretty good, by the way,” Hubbs said. 

If Milton really struggles, then Hubbs said it wouldn’t matter if Iamaleava was a former five-star recruit or a walk-on.

“If you get the Joe Milton of 2021, they’re going to be calling for whoever is behind him,” Hubbs said.