Cameron Sutton is just now finding his voice.
The rising junior cornerback admits he wasn’t a big talker when he first joined Tennessee as a freshman, choosing more to blend in with the rest of the team while he found his footing. But now, as he climbs the totem pole of influence with the Vols, he's embracing his new role.
The fact that Sutton said all this to a gaggle of media reporters at SEC Media Days Tuesday — the one place where being quiet simply isn’t an option — shows how much his leadership has grown since he first stepped foot on campus in 2013.
“My first year I kind of sat in the back,” Sutton said. “I was the guy who was just trying to get acclimated to the surroundings and the people around me. Now, going into my third year, guys are coming to me. I was that quiet kid first coming in.”
The usually reserved Sutton is now growing into his role as a leader who wants to help take control of the team behind closed doors. After a banner sophomore season in which he started all 13 games, led the team with 16 passes defended and tied for second on the roster with three interceptions, Sutton realizes he’s now morphed into the type of player he used to look up to inside the locker room.
“It’s hard to get out of. Not talking enough was a big problem for me,” he said. “Just being more vocal, I have a powerful influence with my voice, which I’m starting to realize that the more that I’m being around my teammates. They listen to me, of course, but just be more vocal and the guys will follow.”
The rest of the Vols secondary has played an integral part in that. After all, it’s much easier to speak up when you’re comfortable around the players you share a locker room with over the ceaseless grind of a college football season.
“Camaraderie — we’re a brotherhood and a bond. We’re always around each other,” Sutton said of his fellow defensive backs. “We’ll do anything for each other. We have each other’s back, and then (we have an) attack mentality. We’re always ready to get after it. We bring it each and every day.”
Tennessee employs a “team staff” as voted on by the players to help them have a consistent peer outlet to reach out to when they want to talk. Sutton was voted to be a part of the team staff and has fully embraced his new position.
“It’s just influence … whether it’s just football or it’s about life, we’re just another outlet for the guys,” he said. “Sometimes you might not be able to talk to coaches about things you can talk to players about.”
Sutton did plenty of talking Tuesday and seemed comfortable and poised as he was showered with question after question during Tennessee’s time in the spotlight for SEC Media Days. He realizes it’s a part of what comes with the territory when you work yourself into being one of the top draft-eligible corners in the NCAA heading into your junior season.
But there was one instance when he didn’t have to answer with words.
When asked how he felt about being left off the preseason watch list for the Thorpe Award, the prize that annually goes to the nation’s top defensive back, Sutton deferred to what he’s about to accomplish on the field.
For all of the talking each Tennessee player did Tuesday, it was this answer which resonated the loudest.
“My play speaks for itself. I don’t need to talk about it,” he said. “Like I said, I showcase and I bring it each and every Saturday. I’m just excited to get started with this season.”