Bama's big for Wes Brown

As a youngster growing up in Athens, Ala., he was a fan of Alabama quarterback Jay Barker. When the time came to pick a college, however, he chose arch-rival Tennessee.

That makes Saturday's UT-Bama game at Tuscaloosa a little extra special for Wes Brown, a 6-4, 256-pound sophomore who plays defensive end for the Vols.

"When Jay Barker was at Alabama, I really followed him and I really enjoyed watching him," Brown recalls. "But my mom and dad are both from Tennessee and they really rubbed off on me. Even though we moved to Alabama when I was born, I became a Tennessee fan when I was young."

Naturally, living in Alabama and signing with Tennessee did not endear Brown to many of the Tide supporters in his area. He caught some flak for his decision.

"Growing up in Alabama and being a Tennessee fan was tough," he recalls. "Fans are fans but most of my buddies and fans respected my decision to come here."

Brown redshirted as a Vol freshman in 2005 and did not play in Tennessee's 6-3 loss at Tuscaloosa that season. In fact, he didn't even get to attend the game.

"I was supposed to make the trip," he says, "but my granddad passed away, so I went home to be with my family.

He made up for lost time last season, seeing significant backup action in a 16-13 Vol victory at Knoxville. He contributed two stops that day, including a tackle for loss.

"It's great to get in any game," he notes. "But, being from Alabama, that one was really special for me and it was special to get a win."

As a teenager, Brown became caught up in the Vol-Tide football rivalry ... never suspecting he one day would play in it.

"I really had no clue," he says. "When I was in my high school years that was something I always dreamed of – playing in this game. I grew up watching it, and I loved it."

Now that he has experienced it up close and personal, Brown believes Tennessee vs. Alabama is one of the premier rivalries in college football.

"It's a great game and a great rivalry," he says. "Right now, it's the most important game for us because it's the next one. It's a lot of fun for the Alabama players and for us, as well.

"This is definitely one you look forward to."

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