Giving thanks

For one Tennessee football player Christmas came before Thanksgiving this year.

Senior defensive tackle Wes Brown got an early Christmas gift when Vanderbilt quarterback Mackenzi Adams flipped a desperation pass in his direction on the final scrimmage play of last Saturday's Vol-Commodore game. Brown intercepted the errant throw and returned it 25 yards for his first collegiate touchdown, bumping the final score to 31-16.

The good fortune was well deserved. Brown has fought through two painfully gimpy knees all season. Thus, scoring a TD on the final play of his final home appearance was a fitting reward.

"God has blessed me, man," Brown said this week. "I can't emphasize that enough ... to be in that position at that time and that be my last play on Senior Day in my last home game. I couldn't ask for anything more."

Indeed. The game's finish was as shocking as it was dramatic, even for the guy involved in it.

"I was surprised," Brown admitted. "I was surprised I caught it, surprised he threw it to me. The whole thing was surprising."

Later, when he watched his touchdown on tape, he was surprised again ... by how slowly he navigated those 25 yards to the end zone.

"It seemed like it took forever," he said, flashing a big grin. "It looked like I was moving real slow. I tell you, when I was running it was going by just like that (snapping his finger). Next thing I know I'm getting dog-piled by like 30 people."

As fate would have it, roommate Jonathan Crompton jokingly told Brown last week that he had accomplished just about everything at UT except a touchdown. Brown conceded the point, never suspecting that the final milestone was merely days away.

"I forced some fumbles, recovered some fumbles, had my first pick (a week earlier against Ole Miss)," he noted. "But I thought that (touchdown) is probably never going to come around."

Although he grew up in Athens, Ala., Brown is the son of two Vol fans. As a result, his four-plus years on The Hill have meant a lot to him.

"It's been awesome, man," he said. "It's been a great ride."

Speaking of rides, he gave Vandy Warren Norman a ride for the last 10 yards of Saturday's touchdown run. The Commodore tailback draped himself around Brown's waist but couldn't bring him down.

"Really, I was expecting him to get on me a whole lot earlier than he did," Brown recalled. "I was going to drag the whole team if I had to. I was going to get there and score."

For a few seconds, though, he probably wondered if his life might be at risk. Buried under a mass of celebrating teammates, he nearly smothered.

"I was under that dog-pile and I couldn't breathe," he said, grinning at the recollection. "I was laughing and crying at the same time but I couldn't breathe. Even running back to the sideline everybody was hitting me and everything.

"I finally got my breath back when I got to the locker room."

Having scored a touchdown on the final play of his final home game as a Vol, Brown now has one more item to give thanks for this Thanksgiving.

As he put it: "What a way to end!"

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