Mature Volunteer

One Tennessee defensive player sometimes feels as if he's 22 years old ... going on 65.

That would be senior defensive end Wes Brown, who has endured three knee surgeries in the past eight months.

After playing most of the 2008 season on a torn meniscus in his right knee, Brown underwent surgery in December. Then, midway through spring practice, he underwent arthroscopic surgery on both knees in April.

Rehabbing one surgically repaired knee is difficult. Rehabbing two surgically repaired knees is brutal. But football takes a toll on a body, even a young body. Brown learned that lesson years ago from a fellow Vol defensive end.

As he recalled: "Parys Haralson told me that when you get older you're going to start feeling it (aches and pains). Sure enough ..."

After a pause and a shrug, Brown added: "It's just part of it. You sign up for the game, and the game's tough."

The game's tough but Wes Brown's tougher. Despite the meniscus tear, he started all 12 games for the Vols last fall.

"It was tough playing on it," he conceded, "but just to see how bad we were struggling as a whole team hurt me more than any injury could."

Brown has spent almost the entire offseason rehabilitating his knees, with considerable assistance from Tennessee's training staff.

"You live in the training room," he said. "Those guys know what they're doing. If you come by and put the time in, they'll get you better. You'll have aches and pains - and I have this summer - but if you do what they tell you to do, you'll get better."

Brown, a 6-4, 257-pounder who is bulking up in anticipation of playing some defensive tackle this fall, believes his recovery is on schedule.

"I feel good," he said. "I'm gaining some good weight and I'm moving OK. I have aches and pains every day but I'm working through that. If I can't run, I'll do some cardio - ride the bike, swim or something. I don't want to get behind, so if I can't run I'll try to do something extra to keep up."

Brown's knees are more stable than they were last month but they still aren't ready for the rigors of a football game. Making what he calls "strong cuts" remains a problem.

"I tried to do it a couple of times," he said, "but my knee gave out on me a little bit."

Still, Brown is undeterred. After spending the past seven months working toward the 2009 season, he isn't about to slack off now. He has eight games left to play on Shields-Watkins Field, and he plans to be in the lineup for each of them ... no matter how much pain he must endure.

"It's worth it," he said. "You've got 107,000 people in Neyland Stadium wearing orange, so whatever injuries you've got you can overcome because it don't get no better than that."


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