Albert Hanks likes UT

His uncle, Val Barksdale, started as a freshman for Tennessee's football program. His aunt, Sharrieffa Barksdale, was a Lady Vol All-American in track and a 1984 U.S. Olympian. His cousin, J.J. McCleskey, played for the Football Vols and went on to spend eight years in the NFL.

Clearly, Albert Hanks has Big Orange blood running through his veins. If the Vols come through with a scholarship offer, the 5-11, 210-pound running back from Westlake High of Waldorf, Md., is a virtual lock to accept.

"I haven't gotten any offers yet because I haven't take the SAT or the ACT," he said. "But I've talked to a lot of coaches, and I really like Tennessee. My Uncle Val, my Aunt Sharrieffa and my cousin J.J. all played for Tennessee, and I want to keep up the tradition."

The Tennessee ties don't stop there, however. Albert's dad (also named Albert) and his mom (Phadra Barksdale-Hanks) grew up in Harriman, maybe an hour from the UT campus.

Although he is blessed with 4.49 speed over 40 yards, young Hanks is as much a power back as a speed back.

"I'm the type of player that, if it's just me and you, you're not going to stop me," he said. "I don't give up. I continue to go, continue to drive. And I do whatever it takes to win. If I need to pass block, I will block for my quarterback. I'm not selfish."

He probably gets that from his cousin. J.J. McCleskey came to UT as a 5-8, 160-pound walk-on from Knoxville's Karns High School. He earned a scholarship with hard work, then contributed on special teams, as a wide receiver and as a safety. One week he even quarterbacked the scout squad in practice to help the Vols prepare for an opponent that ran the option.

"I really look up to my cousin J.J.," Hanks said. "Being a little guy like that, he has the biggest heart anywhere. He worked out more than anybody else because of his size. That's where I get my work ethic from."

Meanwhile, Hanks gets his athleticism from his cousin, his uncle, his aunt and his father, who played semi-pro football while stationed overseas with the U.S. military.

Hanks played mostly defense for Westlake in 2005, recording 20 tackles and an interception as the strong safety. As a tailback he ran for 200 yards and six touchdowns. This year, though, he'll be the featured back and get considerably more carries. He isn't letting that go to his head, though.

"I'm not arrogant or cocky," he said. "I may talk a little trash but not that much," he said. "I thank my linemen after every good play."

Hanks attended UT's recent Senior Camp and relished every moment.

"It was a great experience," he said. "It wasn't like anything I'd experienced before. I liked it when they broke us up into groups and gave us a lot of instruction. The drills helped me a lot. I'm at another camp now (a team camp in Gettysburg, Pa.) and the stuff I learned at Tennessee is helping."

Hanks met four varsity Vols – Rico McCoy, Jonathan Hefney, Jonathan Wade and Arian Foster – during his stay in Knoxville. He hopes to be their teammate by 2007.

"I like Kentucky, and my third choice would probably be Vanderbilt," Hanks said. "But Tennessee is my favorite."

Considering his bloodlines, how could it be anyone else?

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