A pure tight end

Big guys who can run are hard to find. Big guys who can run AND catch the football are so rare that they make college recruiters drool.

It's safe to say that Aaron Douglas had them slobbering all over themselves as a senior at Maryville High School last fall. Now he's ready to step up to the next level as a member of the University of Tennessee program.

This guy combines great size (6-7, 250 pounds), good speed (4.8 over 40 yards) and soft hands like few players in America. That's why he was rated a four-star recruit by Scout.com. And that's why he is regarded by many observers as the crown jewel of the Vols' most recent signing class.

Most college tight ends are guys who played other positions in high school. Very few tight ends discover their calling early in life. Aaron Douglas is an exception to this rule. His youth-league coaches quickly recognized he was ideally suited for tight end.

"I moved around some when I first started playing," he recalled. "When I couldn't make the weight limit (for non-linemen), I played offensive tackle. The rest of the time I played defensive end and tight end."

Once his coaches got a good look at his ability to reel in passes, however, Douglas' future as a tight end was sealed.

"The first time I ran a route as a tight end I was around 8 years old," he recalled, adding: "My dad coached me some back then, but he was the O-line coach, not my position coach."

In addition to football, Douglas starred as a pitcher/first baseman in baseball and a post player in basketball. He gave up the diamond when he enrolled at Maryville High School, which proved to be an excellent decision. He won four state titles in football and one in basketball during his four years with the Red Rebels.

As UT fans already know, Aaron is the offspring of David Douglas, who lettered as a Vol offensive lineman in 1984 and '85, and Karla Horton-Douglas, who lettered as a Lady Vol basketball player in 1985, '86 and '87. Aaron also is a nephew of Steve Douglas, who lettered as a Vol defensive lineman in 1983 and '84.

"It's real cool to follow my mom, my dad and my uncle to UT," Aaron said. "I'm real happy and looking forward to everything."

Young Douglas lists former NBA superstar Michael Jordan as his idol "because of the things he's done," but quickly adds that he also looks up to "my parents because of what they've accomplished and what they've taught me."

Since senior tight ends Chris Brown and Brad Cottam exhausted their UT eligibility in 2007, Douglas has a great opportunity to earn immediate playing time behind rising junior Jeff Cottam and rising sophomore Luke Stocker in '08.

"Coach (Phil Fulmer) has talked to me about that," Douglas said. "But I've got to earn my time. If I get to rotate in some, that's great. I've just got to keep getting bigger and stronger."

Except for the occasional video game, Douglas says his time is devoted almost exclusively to a couple of endeavors. "Usually, it's school and sports," he said.

Considering his size, his speed, his soft hands and his bloodline, Aaron Douglas appears to have a tremendous chance to make an immediate impact at UT.

As Fulmer noted: "He comes from a quality program at Maryville High School under George Quarles, and he has great genes – David and Karla being former Vols and Lady Vols."

Having a big body, quick feet and soft hands doesn't hurt, either.

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