'Little kid' has grown up

One Tennessee football player feels "like a little kid" as Monday's opener approaches. Fortunately, he no longer acts like one.

Demetrice Morley's childish ways got him dismissed from school in March of 2007. After a year of boosting his grades and intensifying his focus across town at Pellissippi State Community College, he has grown into a man. The difference in him is dramatic.

After a standout prep career in Miami, Morley arrived at UT with an abundance of talent for football but very little respect for the game. His cavalier attitude toward academics eventually forced him to miss an entire season of football. During that time he came to realize just how much the game means to him.

"When all of that went down I felt like I lost everything," he recalls. "I didn't know where to turn or what to do. I had some people telling me to keep my head up, keep my head straight. They kept me walking a straight line, and I did everything I had to do.

"Without football, I felt like I was nothing. Now that I know how much it means to me I know I can't do wrong no more. I've got to keep working hard, keep doing the right things."

There is a hurt in Morley's eyes that suggests he is truly contrite about letting down his coaches and teammates. There is an earnestness in his voice that suggests he is eager to redeem himself, starting Monday night at UCLA.

"I'm excited right now," he said, grinning softly. "I can't wait. I feel anxious ... like a little kid right now. I worked hard to get back to where I'm at. Now I'm ready to go out there and make some plays."

Although he hasn't played in a real game since January of 2007, Morley believes he is a better defensive back now than he was then.

"Yes, sir. I feel I've matured a lot," he said. "I've been working a lot on technique and practicing harder. The coaches have my attention now. I believe in the system and I believe in working hard – on the field and on academics.

So, what are the characteristics of a more mature player?

"Trying to do the right thing," he replied. "Just work hard, try to be a leader. That's the person I want to be."

When he was dismissed from UT, Morley could've enrolled at another school and finished his career there. Instead, he chose to sit out a year and return to The Hill.

"I bleed orange," he said. "I started here, and I wanted to finish here."

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