Dream comes true for walk-on lineman

The opportunity for walk-on Tennessee athlete Josesph Ayres to play against Florida last weekend was a dream come true. Go "Inside" to see what Ayres had to say about the opportunity.

For walk-ons in the SEC, many just hope to make their respective teams and get a chance to see any action on the field.

Many go through their career only to perhaps see limited action as a junior or senior.

For Josesph Ayres, getting the chance to play against the Florida Gators last Saturday was a bigger opportunity than most can imagine.

"Getting to play against Florida is like a dream come true," Ayres told InsideTennessee.com earlier this week. "I grew up watching and loving the Tennessee Volunteers. Because of the rivalry with Florida, if I was given the chance to choose which game to play in, no doubt it would be Florida."

Ayres, who is the great, great grandson of the 12th president of the University of Tennessee, Brown Ayres, found out last week that he was going to get a chance to play against the nationally ranked Gators.

"I didn't tell anyone other than my parents," Ayres acknowledged. "I wasn't sure it was really going to happen, so just in case I didn't go around telling everyone about my big opportunity."

Ayres, a redshirt freshman who was listed at the first of the season at offensive guard, provdes an example of the depth situation at the defensive tackle position.

"He performed better in practices recently and that's the reason we went with (him) a lot in the Florida game," Dooley said after the game. "He worked hard to earn the time. It also shows how thin we are at the position."

The 6-foot-3, 265-pound lineman played a lot of snaps against Florida, giving him memories he will never forget.

"I maybe have missed one home game in 12 years at Tennessee," Ayres said. "I have grown up loving Tennessee, I grew up watching Peyton (Manning) and Al Wilson, and I have always been Orange and White."

Ayres was first recruited as a preferred walk-on under Phillip Fulmer, and when Lane Kiffin was hired, his hope wasn't delayed.

"My dream was to be a Vol, it didn't matter who the coach was," Ayres said. "I wasn't sure at first if I would make the team or not, that was my first goal was to make the ball club."

After securing that goal, he gave himself another one - to see the field in whatever capacity possible.

Now Ayres has increased his goals at a rapid pace.

"Now my new goal is to earn a scholarship, earn more playing time," Ayres noted. "My next goal after that is to become a routine starter in the years to come."

Ayres will be the first to acknowledge that it takes a little luck, along with a lot of hard work, for a walk-on to get to the gridiron on Saturdays.

"A lot of us walk-ons are overlooked in high school," Ayres said. "We know going into the situation it's going to take every bit of effort we can muster to get the opportunity to play."

Ayres, while just a redshirt freshman, appears to be a lot wiser than his age. He has relied on other veteran walk-ons for advice and one to look up to.

"I have visited with Nick Reveiz a lot about what it has taken for him to make such an impact," Ayres said. "I also looked up to and listen to the Sullin brothers a lot. They worked extremely hard for what they accomplished."

How did Ayres evaluate his play this past Saturday?

"The first half I was a little shaky with nerves," Ayres said. "I played better in the second half. I got a lot less double teams."

While no one was shouting Ayres, Ayres, Ayres, like they did for Rudy at Notre Dame, the opportunity against Florida meant more to the young man that grew up Orange and White than most can ever imagine.

"It was special," Ayres said. "No doubt about it, it will be something that I will always remember and cherish, not back to work. The season isn't over. I have other goals to obtain."

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