That's because Daniel Lincoln assumed he would need three or four years to achieve that level of recognition. He was wrong. After nailing 21 of 29 field goal tries as a true freshman last fall, he was tabbed first-team All-America by the Football Writers Association of America.
"That's a blessing, something you have set out as a long-term goal," he concedes.
To reach such a lofty plateau in the short term was flattering and exciting. Lincoln savored the honor for a few days, however, and then began focusing on the future. Pleased but not satisfied, he is looking to kick even better in 2008 than he did in 2007.
"Now the bar is set pretty high but you want to get better from your previous experience," he says. "I want to take the lessons I learned last year, apply my work ethic and be better than I was last year."
When you make first-team All-America as a freshman, though, there's not a whole lot of room for improvement ... unless your goal is perfection. That is Lincoln's aim, and he was on track to achieve it last September, setting a school record by making the first eight field-goal attempts of his UT career.
Did he think he might never miss?
"I tried not to think about missing," he recalls. "I didn't know what it felt like until the Mississippi State game. That first kick you miss, you just feel sick. It's a terrible feeling to do something like that in front of a lot of people."
That initial miss was a 26-yarder, a virtual chip shot by Lincoln's standards. Tennessee won the game anyway, and he made his next five tries to stand 13 of 14 through the Vols' first seven games.
Ironically, Lincoln's second miss of 2007 occurred on the same day as the defining moment of his career. After misfiring on a 51-yard attempt in Game 8 vs. South Carolina, he redeemed himself in the final seconds of regulation by nailing a clutch 48-yarder to send the game into overtime. He then booted a game-winning 27-yarder in OT to give Tennessee a season-saving 27-24 victory.
After making 18 of his first 20 field-goal tries, Lincoln stumbled a bit down the stretch. He made just three of his last nine field-goal attempts, a finishing fade he vows will not happen again.
"Toward the end of the year I missed way too many," he says, a frown creasing his face.
A 14-game season is pretty taxing, even for a 20-year-old body, and Lincoln probably ran out of gas as the schedule entered its home stretch.
"It was the longest season I'd every played in my life, and I think I did a little too much early in camp trying to win the job," he says. "I think I need to manage my body a little bit better this year, so late in the season I'll feel just like I did at the beginning of the season."
That revelation may warrant a new entry in the Book of Daniel.