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June 11, 2008Bruising ribs is much more fun than serving them. Running through the "T" is much more exhilarating than pouring some. And being a role model is much more gratifying than delivering rolls.
Tennessee safety Demetrice Morley received a not-too-subtle reminder last year when academic issues cost him his scholarship. To regain his scholarship, Morley ? a former five-star prospect from Miami ? took a job at Calhoun's, a well-known Knoxville restaurant specializing in ribs, to cover tuition for junior college courses needed to regain his eligibility.
Morley is back with the Vols and had a strong showing this spring.
"I was excited to be back out there (in spring football)," Morley said by phone this week. "I felt like I didn't lose a step. I felt better. I'm greedy now. I have to stay focused and greedy, and I can't wait until the season opens up. It's been a long time since I've run through that 'T.' "
No doubt the Volunteers are looking forward to seeing him running through the band-formed "T" in the pre-game ritual at Neyland Stadium, especially after they ranked 74th in the nation in pass defense last season.
With Morley back and sophomore Eric Berry returning, the Volunteers will have one of the best safety tandems in the country. That's important because Tennessee's bid to defend its SEC East crown will be largely dependent on how it fares against two star quarterbacks: Florida's Tim Tebow and Georgia's Matthew Stafford.
Morley showed off his ability during his first two seasons in Knoxville. In 2005, he showed up on several freshman All-America teams. In 2006, he had 51 tackles and two interceptions, including one he returned 31 yards for a touchdown against LSU.
Last season, he could have provided some stability and guidance for an inexperienced secondary and watched over Berry and Brent Vinson, who started as freshmen.
Instead, he just watched.
"It was hard to sit there and watch the guys. It hurt a lot. I had to go do what I had to do to get back with those guys," Morley said. "I feel like I let them down, my coaches down, my parents down and everybody else. It just hurt me a lot, but I learned from it."
Of course, those getting a second chance often talk of lessons learned. That's not always the case. Frequently, a cycle of behavior and poor decisions is repeated. It would be easy to question Morley's sincerity until he proves himself again. But he insists he's changed and matured and ready to handle his responsibilities.
He'd better be because last June, Morley was handed a 7-pound, 15-ounce bundle of responsibility named Deion.
"He just turned 1," Morley said of his son. "He's walking and growing so fast. Every day it seems like he's bigger and bigger. One day, he might be my body guard.
"I can't wait to get out on the field and look over at him from across the sidelines."
Morley said his son motivated him to do whatever was necessary to get back on the team. And he vows he'll stay there.
"I'm applying myself a little more and being more focused because I have a son," he said. "He's my motivation and inspiration. Being a daddy means a lot to me. I've got to man up.
"It changed me a lot. I've matured a lot. I sat down with people and talked about life and just took advice. From here on, it's serious business."
There are seven nicknames attached to at least three Division I-A football programs. What are they? (Answer at the end of the column.)
? The field at Indiana's Memorial Stadium was damaged by heavy rainfall and will have to be repaired or replaced. Repairing a stretch from the south end zone to about the 30-yard line was estimated to cost as much as $1 million.
? West Virginia announced it raised $61,311.32 from its annual Gold-Blue spring game and donated that to the WVU Children's Hospital.
? Oklahoma State has sold almost 2,000 more season tickets than at this time a year ago. The spike may be because no single-game tickets will be made available for the game against Oklahoma on Nov. 29.
? Missouri wide receiver Danario Alexander had successful surgery earlier this week and will be expected to play this season, though he may miss the first few games. The surgery was to repair a torn graft from previous ACL surgery on his left knee. Alexander caught 37 passes for 417 yards and two touchdowns last season.
? Oklahoma and Tulsa will begin a three-year series in 2013. The Sooners will play host to the Golden Hurricane in 2013 and 2015 and play at Tulsa in 2014.
We didn't include Knights or Eagles because of color distinctions. UCF is the Knights, while Army is the Black Knights and Rutgers is the Scarlet Knights. Boston College and Eastern Michigan are the Eagles, and Southern Miss is the Golden Eagles.
Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.