Can Nick stick with first team?

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. In football, that means the quickest path to the end zone is past the middle linebacker.

Much of Tennessee's defensive success in 2009 will depend on whether its middle linebacker can force opponents intent on running up the middle to find an alternate route. Interestingly enough, the guy entrusted with this critical role may well be an undersized former walk-on.

Nick Reveiz stands 5-10 (in cleats, maybe) and weighs 220 pounds. He joined the Vols as a non-scholarship candidate following a fine career just down the road at Farragut High School. After redshirting in 2006 and playing special teams in 2007, he earned a scholarship in August of 2008 and saw backup action behind first-team middle linebacker Ellix Wilson last fall, finishing with 9 tackles and 9 assists.

With Wilson out of eligibility, Reveiz is battling redshirt freshman Herman Lathers for the starting job this spring. Reveiz appears to have a slight lead after registering 7 stops, including 2 tackles for loss, in last Friday's scrimmage.

"I think I did all right," he said. "I was just trying to build on my last two performances and trying to get better. That's the biggest thing: I want to be more consistent, be a better player."

Reveiz's lack of stature is a problem he has offset by developing superior strength and toughness – mentally and physically.

"I try to hustle to the ball and I try not to get out-toughed," he said. "Whenever I get tired, I try to keep pushing and keep working. I don't let the circumstances control me but I control the circumstances."

Reveiz is an inspiration to many, having overcome his physical shortcomings to become a major college football player.

"The No. 1 goal for me, in my position now, is to show kids that anybody can do it," he said. "It doesn't matter how tall your are or how much you weigh. If you have the ability to play and play as hard as you can, then you can do it.

"I give all the credit and glory to God. In Collossians 3:23 it says to work as hard as as you can in everything that you do and give the praise to God, so that's what I try to do every single day."

Nick Reveiz learned a lot about football from his father, Fuad, a former Vol place-kicker who still holds the program record for most field goals in a season with 27 in 1982.

"The biggest thing my dad taught me is discipline," Nick said. "You never gain something without giving up something. You have to sacrifice every single day. In order to improve, you have to feel like you need to prove something every single day."

That's easy for Nick Reveiz. He goes out every single day to prove that a 5-10 220-pounder can play middle linebacker for the Tennessee Vols.

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