At present, the 6-5, 215-pound Asumnu is more of a novelty than a prospect. When an offense is as feeble as Tennessee's is this spring, however, staffers are willing to try just about anything … including a basketball player who hasn't donned pads since the eighth grade.
"It's been a long time since I played football," Asumnu said following the scrimmage. "When I got to high school I concentrated on basketball."
Basketball earned Asumnu a college scholarship, which he parlayed into four years as an occasional starter for the Vol hoops squad. When Tennessee's basketball season ended two weeks ago, Asumnu realized he wasn't ready to stop competing. He mentioned trying out for football to basketball coach Bruce Pearl, who liked the idea.
"After we lost in the NCAA Tournament I had a lot of things on my mind – what I was going to do as far as basketball, school and everything," he recalled. "Me and Coach Pearl had a conversation about what if basketball doesn't work. I told him I would like to try football and see what I could do with that. He thought it was a good idea."
Asumnu then contacted some football staffers. They thought it was a good idea, as well.
"The coaches told me to come out the next day," Asumnu said. "They put me through some routes and stuff and they were impressed, so they told me to come to practice the next day."
Asumnu worked out in shorts on Thursday and Friday, then donned the full pads for Saturday's scrimmage. Despite dropping that initial pass he did reasonably well. After catching the 50-yard bomb, he made a "jump ball" type grab in the back of the end zone, only to have the reception ruled out of bounds. On the very next play he juked a cornerback and turned an end-around into a modest gain.
"It felt good to make a play and get hit, see what it feels like again," he said. "That was the main thing – to get hit and get that out of the way. After that I was calm and relaxed, just trying to make plays and have fun out there."
With only one week of spring practice left and only one year of football eligibility remaining, Asumnu faces long odds. He is cautiously realistic about his chances of making an impact.
"I just want to work with the coaches and players, learn the system and do whatever I need to do to help the team win," he said.
Asumnu clearly has the athleticism to help Tennessee. He hasn't been clocked in the 40-yard dash for several years but described himself as "pretty fast."
He certainly looked fast on his 50-yard reception.
"I feel like I can make plays like that with my athleticism and speed," he said.
Head coach Phillip Fulmer thinks so, too.
"I thought that big catch – going up and getting it – is exactly what he can do," the head man said. "He has to work at being consistent with his hands but I think that's just a matter of catching enough balls. He's got a great attitude, and that's what you love the most about him. He's out there trying to help the team any way he can."
Offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe plans to give Asumnu every opportunity to show what he can do in the coming week.
"It was fun to see him compete," Cutcliffe said. "He's a good athlete. We're trying to do as much with him as we can to try and give him an evaluation on whether he's going to be able to fit and have a chance to help.
"Certainly, you're always looking at good athletes. He's a great young man. I've really enjoyed the time I've had around him at this point."