While there are a lot of talented athletes that grow weary of recruiting phone calls and questions about test scores, there are many more young men with impeccable academics, wonderful work ethics and an uncommon love of the game that ache for an opportunity to prove themselves.
Anderson County High School senior Drew Burrell fits into the later category.
At 6-3, 250 pounds, Burrell is undersized for a Division I offensive tackle prospect and though his 285 bench press is impressive, it's not up to SEC standards for a lineman. Outside of those essential physical requirements which can be acquired, Burrell is a coach's dream.
He's a three-year starter and a three-year honor student with a 3.5 plus GPA. He serves as a team captain for the Mavericks who have gone 11-2 and 10-2 the last two seasons. He was named both All East Tennessee and All-Region as a junior and is primed for a breakout season as a senior. He's a lifelong Tennessee football fan and his father is a UT graduate and season ticket holder.
Burrell hasn't gone unnoticed by college recruiters, neither has he received a scholarship offer.
"I was invited to a game by Tennessee this past year," he said. "I've heard from other SEC schools, South Carolina, Ole Miss and Auburn. I've heard from North Carolina, Tennessee Tech, Carson Newman, Middle Tennessee and Marshall. I've got some things from Harvard and Duke and most of the Ivy League schools."
Burrell is working hard to get bigger and stronger this summer and he plans to attend some camps to refine his already outstanding technique. On Saturday, he'll attend Tennessee's Senior Camp in hopes of impressing coaches.
"I'm going to Tennessee, Carson Newman and Tennessee Tech," he said of scheduled camps. "Two of them are three-day camps and Tennessee's is a one day senior camp."
Burrell runs a respectable 5.2 time, has exceptional footwork and superb technique. He will take the SAT on Saturday and plans to enter the medical profession.
"I want to major in the medical field," he said. "I'd like to be a doctor. My dad's one and I kind of like that. I would like to be a family physician."
Anderson County runs a wing-t offense which emphasizes the run and power blocking. Burrell's head coach Larry Kerr, a 30-year veteran of his profession, has seen a lot of college prospects in his day and he knows there are many variables that go into the making of a football player.
"Drew brings a lot to our program," Kerr said. "We've been successful the last two or three years and he's played a big part in that. Potentially, he may have an opportunity to play college football somewhere, but I don't know at what level. He's a smart kid and his work ethics are great. He's a great role model for our program. He's the type of kid you'd like to have marry your daughter."
Whether Burrell is the type of guy you'd like protecting your franchise quarterback is another matter. However he undoubtedly has the desire to sign with a Division I school and he has always dreamed of playing for Tennessee.
"Yes sir, I want to play at a DI school," he said. "I want a school with a lot of tradition, not a real big school... well except for UT that would be awesome. I want a school where I can get a real good education.
"I've always been a Tennessee fan. My dad has season tickets and I go to every home game that I can. I was invited to the Arkansas game last year, that's the one that went six overtimes. That was awesome. It was a very good game, maybe the best of the season."
Burrell wants to have his best season to raise his status in the eyes of college coaches. Two examples of in-state players who became legitimate prospects based on strong senior seasons are UT's Jason Hall and Brad Cottam. Kerr said Burrell needs to get both bigger and stronger as well as step up his intensity.
"The big thing is to keep getting stronger and more intense," Kerr stated. "A big part of growing up is that light coming on and I think in the spring we saw something of him stepping up. That's what he needs to do more of this fall."
Kerr knows that many prospects are made and broken by the quality of their senior seasons, and he has seen his share of players make that improbable jump from unknown to renown in the course of three months.
"We need for him to have a great year and I think a lot of the verdict is still out on Drew Burrell," a straightforward Kerr stated. "How he plays his senior year will have a lot to do with the level he plays at in college. Drew has not really stepped forward to do what he's capable of doing. He came out this past spring and had a great spring, so I'm hoping and praying he'll come out his senior year and really go out and play football because this kid can dominate the offensive line if he wants to. He's a great technician. He doesn't make mental mistakes. He dissects and does a good job in the line."
Burrell is working to add bulk and strength this summer and he's further tweaking his technique.
"I've been working out harder," he said. "I hope to gain a little more muscle. Between 260 and 270 would be an ideal weight goal my senior year. I want to keep my grades up, get stronger and work on all the little things that I've been having trouble with. I want to make myself the most presentable that I can."
Making such gains would make Burrell very attractive to college programs, although landing a scholarship to UT is another matter altogether. However it's reasonable that he could enter Tennessee as an invited walk-on and develop into a genuine contributor after a couple of years on a strength program.
"He's a great kid," said Kerr. "Marginal in size. I don't know that he's a University of Tennessee product or not. He's one of our team captains, he's one of our leaders. I think that a lot of the things are still to be decided about Drew. He can play somewhere at the next level because he has that potential. A good senior year and things could open up. I think his potential is unlimited."
It appears the only mystery about Drew Burrell is his football future.