What grind?

A 12-game season must seem like a real grind to Tennessee football players ... except for one freshman who is accustomed to playing the equivalent of 12 football seasons each year.

The player in question is Brent Brewer. Four years ago, as a senior at Sandy Creek High in Tyrone, Ga., he signed a football scholarship with Florida State. He reneged and chose the diamond over the gridiron, however, when the Milwaukee Brewers picked him in Round 2 of the 2006 Major League Baseball draft.

However, after batting just .240 the past four years and seeing his career stall at the Class AA level, the 6-2, 205-pound Brewer decided to give up pro baseball and try to reinvent himself as a college football player. No one is happier about that decision than Tennessee secondary coach Terry Joseph. That's because Brewer is giving sophomore Prentiss Waggner quite a battle for the first-team job at strong safety.

"He can help us this year," Joseph said of Brewer. "I don't know where we'd be if we didn't find the guy. We're excited."

Incredibly, Joseph once followed the same path that Brewer has - spending four years in minor league baseball before starting his college football career. As a result, the Vol aide understands how much a guy can grow up while dealing with the rigors of low-level pro baseball.

Asked whether Brewer's minor league background has helped him more in terms of mental maturity or physical maturity, Joseph answered without hesitation.

"By far the mental maturity," he said. "For a guy who's been through 144 games four years in a row, traveling from city to city, getting off a bus and playing to come and be a Division 1 athlete, where a lot of stuff is catered to you - I think that's really helped him more."

Whereas Tennessee's other freshmen were being monitored and motivated by their parents the past four years, Brewer was managing his own life with very little supervision.

"When you get into professional baseball, you need to organize your time because the coaching kind of steps back a little bit," Joseph said. "You have to determine what you need - when you need to lift weights, what you need to eat.

"It makes you a little more mature because you have to take care of yourself like it's your business. You really ARE the business. You have to come up with a plan to take care of yourself."

Brewer's maturity should help in a Vol secondary that is frightfully young. That maturity may not be evident right away, however.

"I think it'll pay off in time," Head Coach Derek Dooley said. "Right now he's still trying to figure out what to do. Over time, as he gets settled into the team and knows what to do, he'll have a little more comfort level in affecting others.

"Then his age will really make a difference."


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