McGlothlin's a walk-on wonder

The guy projected to start at defensive tackle for the University of Tennessee is a two-time walk-on who almost blew his career over a positive steroid test. He almost severed his leg in a four-wheeler accident. He has a tattoo covering most of one arm.

And his father makes biodegradable clay pigeons out of limestone and sells machines that throw the targets for skeet shooting.

Meet Matt McGlothlin. You might never see another one quite like him.

McGlothlin found his way to Tennessee from Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy. He came as a walk-on in 2002, redshirted, then found himself in the starting lineup for two games, one against Florida.

He earned a scholarship. But then he sat out the 2004 season after being dismissed from the team over the positive drug test.

He returned as a walk-on in 2005 and played in 10 games.

He found himself in a battle for the starting tackle spot in the spring and was awarded a scholarship recently by Vols coach Phillip Fulmer.

``It felt good,'' said McGlothlin (6-0, 290). ``I lost it and got it back. It's been a long experience, but it felt good. I really appreciate it. You always hope, but I really didn't know.''

The first day of practice, he found himself running along side Justin Harrell as a starter with Turk McBride opening at defensive end.

``That could change after the first scrimmage, so we'll see,'' said McGlothlin, taking nothing for granted. ``I'm glad they've given me the opportunity.''

Dan Brooks, Tennessee's defensive line coach, loves McGlothlin's fortitude.

``He works so hard,'' Brooks said. ``He won't take no for an answer. His whole life, he's not been tall enough, he wasn't this or that. But he's worked to make himself a good football player.''

Brooks said he saw signs of McGlothlin becoming a player when he first arrived at Tennessee, but the veteran coach had his doubts.

``I think everybody in America had doubts or he would have signed (Division 1),'' Brooks said.

Whether McGlothlin starts depends not just on McGlothlin, but on UT's defensive ends. If end Xavier Mitchell overcomes his back issues, McBride could move back to tackle.

Either way, McGlothlin is important to the front four, Brooks said.

``We need him to play well,'' Brooks said. ``You want your seniors to be the best players. He's been around and knows what to do.''

McGlothlin said it wasn't easy watching his teammates win the 2004 SEC East Division and play in the SEC Championship game while he stood idly by.

``Awe, Lord,'' he said. ``The hardest thing I ever did by far. It was awful sitting in the stands watching all your buddies play and not be able to go through all of it with them. I was crazy, man. I didn't like it at all. It was real hard.''

McGlothlin spent his time in the weight room, working harder than ever.

``I was in the best shape of my life,'' he said.

But in May of 2005, he was almost sidelined for good by a four-wheeler accident. He was riding in Greenville, S.C., with former teammate Rob Smith, when his four-wheeler flipped over on his leg.

``It about took (the leg) off,'' McGlothlin said.

``Cool scar, isn't it?'' he said, as he raised his pants leg to show the ugly remains. ``I had three surgeries, but I'm good,'' he said, managing a laugh.

Of course, there was nothing funny about the accident that almost claimed his career, a career that's had more twists than a Kansas tornado.

Besides playing football and four-wheeling, McGlothlin is an avid hunter and fisherman. It's a bit odd that his father got into making clay pigeons, considering his father isn't much of a hunter.

The company is called Laport USA with offices in France and Virginia.

``Dad has done it for eight or nine years,'' McGlothlin said. ``He's done real well with it. He travels to France once very two months.''

What spurred his father to make clay pigeons?

``I have no idea,'' McGlothlin said. ``He just got up one day and said, `I'm going to do this.' He's just random like that.

``He said when he sells the business and quits working so hard, me and him and my brother will do a bunch of hunting and fishing. I think he's a hunter and fisherman at heart. We'll see.''

McGlothlin doesn't see himself taking a similar career path to his dad's.

``I don't think I'm cut out for making clay pigeons,'' McGlothlin said. ``I'll probably be in the military or something.''

Meanwhile, he's a senior on Tennessee's defensive line, trying to earn a starting job and be a part of Tennessee's football revival. He'd like to be a poster boy for all major college walk-ons.

He's well on his way.

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