Jenny Fuente is a relative newcomer to Memphis, having moved here three years ago with her three children and her husband for his new job. But there’s no doubt she is a Memphian now. In fact, you could call her true blue—as in University of Memphis blue—because that new job her husband, Justin, took in late 2011 was as head football coach for the Tigers. Justin’s task was to begin rebuilding the football program, which was close to extinction. In just three seasons, he has an American Athletic Conference championship and a 10-win season to his credit. Justin is in his fourth season as Tigers head coach (the team has an impressive 4-0 start in 2015 as of this writing), and we asked Jenny to tell us her story.
Where are you from, where did you go to college and how did you meet Justin?
I am from Normal, IL, which is two hours south of Chicago. I went to college in my hometown at Illinois State University and played college volleyball there. After earning my undergraduate degree, I pursued a master’s degree and continued with the volleyball program as an assistant coach. Justin was coaching football at Illinois State and we were introduced by Galen Scott, a fellow football coach. Galen is currently the defensive coordinator for Justin here at Memphis.
Describe your early career. Where did you work, and what were your jobs?
I started coaching volleyball at Illinois State while earning my master’s degree. I was the associate head volleyball coach there until Justin accepted a coaching job at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX. I then coached junior varsity volleyball at a high school in Fort Worth. When our second daughter was born, I hung up the whistle to stay at home with our girls.
Tell us about your girls—how old are they, and what do they enjoy doing?
Cecilia is 7 years old and in second grade. She enjoys crafts, playing teacher with her sisters, playing basketball and softball on her school team, and keeping track of her daddy’s team. She is pretty educated in sporting events and watches intently at the games and on TV during away games.
Caroline just turned 4. She loves coloring, books and playing babies with her sister. She has just started preschool this year and is enjoying her teachers, meeting new friends and all the activities that come along with it.
Charlotte just turned 2 and loves to get into everything! She also loves babies, anything Frozen or Sofia, and has recently been working hard on potty training.
Are you involved in any community organizations here in Memphis?
Justin and I had the wonderful opportunity to chair the FedEx Family House Gala this past spring. I am an active member of the St. Louis Parish and school.
Did you come from a football family or have any brothers who played?
I did not come from a football family, but we were very much involved with athletics. My sister, Emily, and I played college volleyball, and my brother, Paul, played college baseball. All three of us played high school basketball, as well. The one family member not interested in sports is my other brother, Luke, who is 7 feet tall.
You’re in a rare group–the wife of a head football coach for a university. What’s the biggest challenge of being married to a coach, whether a head coach or an assistant?
The biggest challenge of being married to a coach is the time commitment it requires. The hours are grueling and not flexible.
Do you have any pregame rituals?
Most of my pregame is spent getting ready for the Tiger Walk. Two and a half hours before the game, the team arrives on Tiger Lane and walks into the stadium through a crowd of people. We all love waiting to see Justin lead the team, and we give him a quick hug and kiss. The girls then give high fives to all the players that walk by.
Tell me about your time in Memphis. It’s been quite successful in football terms. How’s the adjustment been for you and the girls and your family as a whole?
Our adjustment to Memphis has been very smooth. I found it was easy to explore Memphis with the girls and visit museums, the zoo, parks, etc. I have made several good friends during our time here. Some of those people are part of our Memphis football family, and many others are new Memphis friends. Lastly, we are blessed to be a part of the St. Louis family. We have received an outpouring of support and a comfort with the school and church.
So far, what’s the best advice you’ve given your girls?
I try to emphasize the golden rule with our girls; treat others how you would want to be treated.
What are your hobbies and how do you unwind?
Right now, I don’t have too many hobbies with the girls being young and needing much of my attention. I do enjoy sewing, working out at the gym, walking or going for bike rides, and watching sporting events.
Where’s the first place you take an out-of-towner when they come to visit you in Memphis?
Gibson’s Donuts is probably a highlight for our out-of-town guests. The girls love going there, and Don DeWeese loads them up with all their favorites. Other places we take people include the Children’s Museum, the Peabody Ducks and the new Bass Pro at the Pyramid.
What’s your favorite Memphis attraction?
Besides the places I just mentioned, I would have to say a Tiger football game is my favorite Memphis attraction!
Finish this sentence: If I had a superpower, it would be …
Teleporting! It would make traveling with our family much easier!!
What one word describes you?
That’s a hard question for me, but I’d say driven.
What inspires you?
Mostly people inspire me, including my husband, my parents and Cecilia, Caroline and Charlotte. They make me want to be a better person and work hard for them.
What are three lighthearted things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends?
Desserts: I love desserts and need something sweet after lunch and dinner.
My Ugg slippers in the fall and winter: I have to wear them all the time when I am at our house. I love them!
My Deva Curl hair products: I’ve finally figured out how to manage my naturally curly hair.
Many thanks to Jenny for taking a time out from football season to chat with us! And thanks to Micki Martin, who photographed Jenny for this feature.
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