Reveiz rallies

He went from being the most inspiring story in Tennessee's football program to being the most heart-breaking ... all in one pop of an ACL.

Nick Reveiz's amazing rise from obscure 5-foot-10 walk-on to starting middle linebacker made him probably the Vols' most beloved player last fall. When he blew out a knee in Game 4 vs. Ohio, however, he suddenly became the team's most pitied player.

No wonder. Knowing the injury was severe, Reveiz couldn't hold back tears as he watched the rest of the Ohio game from the sidelines. Sure enough, he underwent major surgery shortly thereafter and missed the rest of the season. Still recovering and rehabilitating five months later, he's very limited in practice this spring.

Proving that you can't keep a good man down, however, Reveiz has managed to find a positive amidst all of the disappointment. A Vol teammate helped him locate it.

"Chris Walker tells me that God wants a tried and tested man," Reveiz said. "I think someone who hasn't been through things can't achieve greatness because it takes perseverance and commitment and sacrifice, and those are things I've gone through."

After a redshirt year, two years as a special-teams performer and the injury-shortened 2009 season, Reveiz is down to his final season of collegiate eligibility. Naturally, he hopes to go out with a bang but only if that's part of the master plan.

"I don't know my plan," he said. "I'd like to be All-SEC. I'd like to win the Butkus Award. I'd like to be All-American. I'd like to be drafted in the first round. But I can't call that. All I can do is work as hard as I can and leave the rest to God. He knows my plan and I don't."

Reveiz can't participate in the contact drills necessary to make himself a better player this spring, so he's doing whatever he can to make better players of his fellow defenders.

"I just help out my teammates - encourage them, try to help out the other guys," he said. "I'm not going to be over-vocal or fake about it. I'm just going to be real and be me. A lot of times you hurt the team if you fake being enthusiastic ... if you fake coaching a guy when you don't know what you're talking about. Just be real, be genuine. That's what I'm going to try to do."

Although the surgically repaired knee is limiting him physically, Reveiz is working hard to fine-tune himself mentally.

"I'm going to be in the film room every day, studying," he said. "I'm going to do everything I can. It's going to be a mental spring for me, and that's hard because I want it to be physical. I want to get out there and hit. But I've got to take the hand that's dealt to me and do the best I can with it."

Even with physical limitations, Reveiz is thrilled to be back on the practice field.

"The first day I got to do a seven-on-seven (drill), and I actually got a pick, and that's something that rarely happens to me," he said, grinning broadly. "It was nice to be back out here with my team. It's a limited role but I'll take what I can get."

Because Tennessee is installing a new defensive scheme this spring, Reveiz's inability to participate in full-speed, full-contact drills means he'll be behind when preseason camp opens in August. Just how far behind is anyone's guess, though.

"I can't answer that question," he said. "We'll see when fall comes. I'll tell you this: I'm going to do everything I can. It's not going to be because of a lack of effort. Mentally, I'm going to be ready. Physically, I will be, too."

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