Sawtelle: ‘I'm Totally Committed'

When UT commitment Darris Sawtelle talks about the University of Tennessee football, it is with the reverence of a young man uncommonly respectful of its past and acutely enthusiastic about its future.

Figuratively, the 6-foot-6, 285-pound, offensive lineman's reach encompasses three generations of Volunteer football, reaching from the final seasons of the late, great General Robert R. Neyland, who recruited his grandfather and namesake, Darris McCord to play for UT, to the year 2010 when Sawtelle's own college grid career on The Hill projects to play out.

That makes the five-star prospect from Bloomfield, Mich., who committed to the Vols on April 8, uniquely qualified to offer an assessment of Tennessee football. In fact, at the very moment he decided to follow his heart to Knoxville and stake his future with UT, he was watching his grandfather walk the sacred turf of Sheild-Watkins Field before the Orange and White Game.

"I walked into the Spring game and my entire family is in the stands and I mean my real entire family," he recalled. "My grandpa was walking around on the field and was just so happy. Originally, I didn't want to base my decision on my grandpa's thing even though that was great. And then it kind of hit my that I wasn't going to be so immature and arrogant to make my whole career go that path. I saw him and how happy he was over those hedges down there on the field, and I watched the team and watched the coaches, and I looked all around me and said to myself this is right."

The finalization of his decision was the realization of his dream.

"My thing was looking at UT," he explained," I've always been a fan of UT football. Anytime anyone asked me where I wanted to go to the college? I would say ‘the University of Tennessee. Where do you want to play football? I would say ‘the University of Tennessee.' My entire life watching football games up here I've been watching Tennessee. I'm looking at my window right now and I've had the same room my entire life and I've got stickers of the Tennessee Vols. Around my whole room is Tennessee stuff. I'm a fan of the Vols. Now I'm going to get to play for them. It is a dream come true for me."

Sawtelle announced his decision early despite having a choice of virtually any college in the country. The folks at Michigan and Michigan State were clamoring for his services and USC was promoting him as the top O-lineman on its board. Yet he remained undetoured, and despite praise that would make any 17 year-old's head swell beyond recognition, Sawtelle kept his ego in check and his eye on the prize.

"First off I don't see myself as a five-star lineman," he cautioned. "I just see myself as a tackle. If people give me a five-star rating then thank you very much sir. It's just rewarding hard work because nothing is given to you in this game, it's all earned. I'm not saying I'm not a five-star lineman, but I don't walk around with my chest stuck out.

Darris is so driven to succeed that he didn't even take time to celebrate after his team, Brother Rice High School, won the state title last season, he didn't take time to celebrate.

"We won our state title last year," he explained. "That was a great day in my life because I got the offer from Tennessee the same day. It was incredible because I had just played a very, very hard game. We edged it out 14-7, and it was intense. You watch that movie "Friday Night Lights" and people say that's a bunch of drama, but it's really pretty close to the way things are.

"In the locker room everybody was celebrating and I was just exhausted. I was actually invited to a party, but I decided not to do that. Instead I went home and did homework. It was a responsibility. So I'm sitting at the counter working and my dad just comes by and hands me the mail like he usually does and there's this big manilla envelope from Tennessee. I opened that envelope and there's that checkered header on it with the T. The letter said: Dear Darris we're offering you a full scholarship, and that was just wow. That's when it hit me we had won the state championship. I realized with that and getting the offer from Tennessee I had met all my goals that year. Seeing that just made it all the more clear. I think it was the happiest day of my life."

Undoubtedly, the commitment from the likes of a Darris Sawtelle to UT has already provided a substantial boost to the Vols recruiting prospects in 2007. And he's willing to go further he by giving his powerful testimony for Tennessee to other prospects interested in donning the Orange.

"I'm the kind of guy that sees myself totally committed to the University of Tennessee so everything I can to do to help I'm on the team," he said. "If it helps other recruits to see this five-star linemen who's made this commitment now when I could've waited to way after the season and do all that hoopla about where I'm going to go, I think that's great. I think good things are happening at Tennessee. I'm not just saying that because I'm committed there. I'm saying that because it is one of the reasons I did commit to Tennessee. I'm seeing a team that is on the rebound, but they're going to do it. I know that's coming from a bias source, but I felt the same way when I was still looking at a lot of schools."

Sawtelle also takes exception with those that believe Tennessee is coming off a bad recruiting year.

{It seems like everybody is talking about Tennessee missing out on the good offensive linemen," he said, "but I have to give a shoutout to both Jacques McClendon and Cody Pope. They are great guys and watching their film they're both hell of a lineman. I'm not worried at all about who I'm playing with because it looks pretty solid."

The same could be said of Sawtelle's commitment to Tennessee.

Editor's Note: This is article is but a brief version of an in-depth feature about Darris Sawtelle planned for the next issue of Rocky Top News. If you're not a subscriber to RTN. You're only getting a fraction of the story.

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