Vols Lead for 2-Sport Star

While talent has its privileges too much talent can be a problem. Take the case of Rusk, Texas, running back Justin Sturns, who is ranked No. 18 among prospects at his position by Scout.com, but only has one offer to date because he's also a topnotch baseball prospect.

The one school to this point willing to take a chance that Sturns' passion for football will exceed the appeal of instant Major League dollars is Tennessee. Other programs like Nebraska, Texas Tech, Texas, Iowa State, Kansas State and TCU are all interested in the 5-foot-10, 203-pound athlete, but not at the risk of a scholarship.

"Tennessee is my favorite," Sturns told Scout.com's Andrew Bone last week. "They offered early and that's why they are high on my list. I went there for a camp, and I got along with the coaches. I also feel good about their offense.

"Texas Tech is my number two right now. They told me they were leaning towards offering. They talked about me having a chance to start as a freshman. They like how I catch the ball out of the backfield and my play-making ability."

His ability to catch balls in centerfield has captured the interest of MLB teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates, who were planning on drafting him last spring until they discovered he was a junior instead of a senior.

"I went to a camp that the Pirates were having and it went real well," Sturns told Scout.com's Jeremy Patterson of a tryout he had in the spring. "They were trying me out for next year's draft. They told me that I have all the tools to be a major league player. I threw 92 mph from the outfield and ran a 6.5 second 60 time. That was a big step in baseball career."

Sturns has also taken giant leaps on the gridiron. Playing quarterback as a junior, he amassed 2,564 yards and 38 touchdowns rushing in 331 carries for a 7.3 yards per carry average. His longest run from scrimmage was a 98-yard TD gallop. He also threw for over 600 yards to lead Rusk to the state playoffs.

Certainly Sturns has the ability to pursue a career in professional football as well. He runs a 4.47 time in the 40, bench presses 285 pounds, squats 555, has a 4.53 shuttle clocking and a 35-inch vertical leap. His strong arm allows him to pose a legitimate threat on the halfback pass, and he has great hands as a receiver out of the backfield.

Sturns could keep his options open by playing both sports in college and choosing one after his junior season.

"I would like to do both, but if I have to choose it will be tough," Sturns said. "The Pirates told me that I should quit football because I'm going to get drafted in baseball and I should focus on that. I'm not going to do that though, I love football too much."

His love of football is so genuine that Sturns didn't play club baseball over the summer so he take part in 7-on-7 camps with his high school team. He is also focused on his senior season in high school and not his future next year.

"I want to leave everything on the field," he said. "I don't want to be thinking what else I could have done after each game. It would be great if we can bring a state title to Rusk.

"How I feel about the school will be important. I don't want to be seen just as a football player, but as a student-athlete too. I'd like to play early if I'm good enough—and I think I will be."

Tennessee's faith in Justin Sturns may just add a playmaker to the Vols football team and a center fielder for the baseball team.


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