Tee to play again?

Tee Martin hasn't decided yet whether he'll play for the Knoxville team All-American Football League.

The former Tennessee quarterback is waiting on two things: Team Knoxville's coaching staff and a roster.

Andy Kelly is the head coach. He has hired one assistant thus far, former UT receiver Alvin Harper, according to Martin. Kelly has yet to assemble his players, Martin said. You get to pick so many payers before the Jan. 26 draft. The season starts in March.

Martin is also considering pursuing his coaching career at the college level. For the past two years, he has been quarterbacks coach at Georgia's North Cobb High School. He said he has talked to Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer and Duke coach David Cutcliffe about joining their staffs, although it might be in administration rather than coaching.

``Both have expressed interest in me,'' Martin said. ``I would love to help.''

Meanwhile, Martin is pondering a return to the field. He's been working out just in case he decides he wants to take another snap in Neyland Stadium, where he helped Tennessee win a national championship in 1998.

``It's been two years since I played in Canada,'' Martin said. ``You've got to get your body going. The biggest thing is mental. I've been coaching the last two years and once you want to be on that side of the ball, it's hard to go back.

``Hopefully it won't be that way for me. But I'll be honest with myself and with the team and let everyone know where I am.''

Martin said that once he retired, he has not had a burning desire to play again.

``When I decided to retire from the league and to be a coach, I wanted to do that 100 percent,'' Martin said. ``Right now, it's a little weird. I'm in prayer a lot. I've talked to my wife a lot. Where am I mentally? Because I don't want to disservice anyone. I don't want it to be just about me coming back playing in Knoxville when I'm actually now who I am and playing the way I'd like to play.

``This will be the last opportunity people will get to see you play so I want to be at my best. Mentally, I'm trying to get back into it. You've got to prepare like you're taking those hits.

``I'm a little bit on the fence right now. It's going to be one of those things where it's clear to me and at that moment, I'll let it be known.''

While Martin guided Tennessee to its only 13-0 season, he was not taken until the fifth round of the NFL draft. He bounced around with several teams before going to the Canadian Football League, then retiring in 2005.

He said he never soured on the game, never sour about, as he said, not getting an opportunity.

``I kept it in perspective and looked at it for what it was,'' Martin said. ``The good side about it was I had an opportunity to go to the NFL. I never dreamed I'd go to the NFL, never thought I'd ever make it to the NFL. It was a blessing to go.

``At the same time, you see the business side of it. When you don't play as a backup and you keep getting paid more money and they (team officials) bring in someone cheaper to replace you, I understood that side. I always backed up guys who had big contracts and guys who had great experience. You say, `Man, are you going to ever play?'

``I never left the league mad because I understood my position on every team I played for. When I retired, it wasn't that I doubted I could do it or didn't think I could do it. It was just, I didn't get an opportunity to do it. I accepted it and moved on with confidence.

``I felt good about my career and what I did in college and what I did in the NFL, for that matter. I played with some very good quarterbacks and learned a whole lot that will help me as a coach. I wasn't angry.

``When I did retire, I didn't miss the game. I wasn't going to chase it forever. I've got a family, I'm married, my kids are getting bigger. I couldn't be selfish to the point where I just chased any team that called me to play for their football team because it wasn't fair to my family. That was why I decided to hang up the cleats."

Having coached the past two years, Martin said he has a lot more respect for the profession than when he played.

``As a player, the game plan is already done,'' he said. ``You get there and the audibles are already there, the breakdowns in red zone, what they do on third down, what the tendencies are. That's already there for you on a piece of paper.

``As a coach, you're the one coming up with it. There's a much more creative process as a coach and you really grow to appreciate coaches. They get tapes, that's all they have. And you have got to break it down and come up with an idea before 2 o'clock, before players get there (for meetings) and they have confidence in your idea to teach it and coach it up to the point where players feel like they're going to win with this. So I do have a lot more respect for the coaching profession than I did before I became a coach.''

At times when Martin was at Tennessee, he butted heads with then-offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe.

``I really appreciate and admire him a lot more now, especially a guy who can make a call in 35 seconds throughout a three- hour period, man, and pinpoint them and make great calls that win football games,'' Martin said. ``You really grow to appreciate that.''

Martin said if he were a college recruiter, he'd got after a mobile quarterback, like himself or Vince Young, over a pocket passer, even though the majority of quarterbacks who have won national titles over the past dozen years weren't mobile.

``I think it's more important to have a mobile quarterback,'' Martin said. ``Nothing against drop-back quarterbacks, but mobile quarterbacks, to me, give the offense an extra play when things break down, a guy who can pass from the pocket but has an opportunity get outside the pocket when things break down.

``You can essentially have two plays in one with an athletic quarterback. So if I were on the road recruiting for a college, that's the kind of guy I'd go get, one who I'm not nervous when he throws it and I'm not nervous when he's out of the pocket. That's the kind of guy I'd rather coach and have on my team.''

Martin was an example of that. In his first start at Tennessee, he was only 9 of 27 passing against Syracuse, but he made several huge plays by scrambling out of the pocket, helping the Vols defeat the Orange in New York.

``It's like I told my quarterback this year, `Make me look good,''' Martin said. ``Sometimes we'd call a play and it wasn't there. Make me look good and get out of the pocket and make something happen.

``Coach Cutcliffe had prepared me to the point where he wasn't nervous when I got out of the pockets and he gave me confidence in doing it and it helped us out a whole lot that year.''

Meanwhile, Martin is deliberating whether he wants to wear a helmet instead of a coaching hat. He likes the idea of the AAFL pitting players from Tennessee against, for example, players who played for the Florida Gators.

``I'm surprised at how popular (the league) is,'' Martin said.

He would make Team Tennessee more popular if he decides to play.

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