UT proactive on agents

No Tennessee Vols have been implicated in the scandal involving players attending a party and accepting gifts from unscrupulous agents. Critics say this is because the Vols have no players of interest to pro sports agents.

There may be another reason, however: Head coach Derek Dooley has taken a very proactive approach in making his players aware of precisely what they can and cannot do in terms of contact with agents.

"Coach Dooley's done a great job," senior defensive end Chris Walker said. "The morning of the spring game he had all of the seniors and their parents in. He had an agent symposium kind of thing to make our parents aware of things they (agents) could try to do ... and also to make us aware because, with the season coming up, they're going to try to get at us a lot more.

"Coach has done a great job of making us aware and making our parents aware. I think we're going to have another one of those sessions because going into the season and through the season they're going to be talking to us."

Walker said these steps were not taken by the previous head coaches he played for, Phillip Fulmer and Lane Kiffin.

"This is something very new," Walker said. "I'm glad we went through it because this is something everybody needs to know. They try to get at your family more than they do you, and that could be the one they catch you at most."

Although some unscrupulous agents exploit naive players with "loans" and "gifts" and other illegal benefits, Walker said the players must share in the blame.

"The rules are in place, and everybody involved in sports knows the rules," he said. "Those guys made mistakes, and they're going to have to get corrected."

Dooley agrees that players are to blame when they are penalized for accepting some sort of illegal inducement.

"At the end of the day, it's the responsibility of the player to NOT take it," Dooley said. "I don't know any other way to put it."

Still, the coach expressed disdain for the shady agents whose greed puts an athlete's eligibility at risk, essentially comparing them to drug dealers.

Noting that both deal in temptation, he added that "It really is no different. You have a drug dealer and you have a decision to buy from a drug dealer and do drugs. It's a behavioral issue."

Walker, a second-team preseason All-SEC pick, has been approached a few times already by agents or so-called "runners" who represent the agents. Some of them can be pretty devious.

"There are guys that will come out of the blue, and you're kind of wary of them," he said. "That's when you distance yourself from them and keep moving. You have to be conscious about people coming up to you randomly."

Senior tight end Luke Stocker has become especially wary of agents and runners ... or anyone who MIGHT be an agent or a runner.

"If I get a call from a number that isn't in my cell phone, I just don't answer it," he said. "The few (agents) I have talked to through text messages I've told, 'Look, I'll be more than happy to speak with you after the season.' Until that time, I'm kind of staying away from them.

"I realize there's nothing they can do for me at this point but distract me and try to pull me in a direction I don't want to go in," he said. "I'm fine where I am. I don't need an agent right now."

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