Three years ago, Nick Reveiz wondered if he made the right choice by walking on at Tennessee.
As a member of the scout team, Reveiz remembers getting yelled at by the coaches — Phillip Fulmer included — for going too hard in practice.
“People were telling me to slow down. And I was holding it back,” Reveiz said.
But that walk-on started to earn playing time on special teams. Then he earned a scholarship. Then he entered the rotation at linebacker. Then he claimed the starting middle linebacker job during Lane Kiffin’s first spring practice.
And just this week, Reveiz was named one of the four team captains for this season. He became the first former walk-on to earn a captaincy since defensive back J.J. McCleskey in 1992.
“It means a lot. It’s such an honor,” Reveiz said. “When Coach Kiffin (announced) that, I was kind of speechless. I was trying not to smile, to be the tough guy.”
Playing at Tennessee means something special to Reveiz. His father, Fuad, was a placekicker for the Vols before going on to a lengthy career in the NFL. Fuad’s sons, Nick and Shane, played their high school ball at Farragut.
“He’s real proud of me. My dad’s been there through all of it,” Nick Reveiz said.
The newly appointed captain shared one moment from his freshman year, 2006, as the Vols were preparing to face South Carolina.
“Coach Fulmer got on me about going too hard in practice,” recalled Reveiz, who said his dad was in attendance that day. “I was so frustrated because I didn’t know. I thought I was supposed to go hard. I remember just crying, thinking, is this the place for me? I was praying about it.
“My dad’s been with me through those hard moments.”
Reveiz tries to never forget those thankless days as a walk-on. He’s very conscious of where he comes from, and how far he’s come, during his time playing football on Rocky Top.
Saturday, he was a team captain making six tackles in a throttling of Western Kentucky. But just three years ago, Reveiz would have been one of the guys wearing a red jersey and pretending to be one of the Hilltoppers.
“My freshman year I remember getting in some scuffles with some O-linemen and hitting them and they were getting mad, because I was on scout team,” Reveiz said. “Some days you needed to pull up. Some days, some guys were hurting. That’s understandable. A lot of times, those Tuesdays, those hard days, they’d get mad if you came and hit them. That’s why I try to reach out to those walk-on guys who are doing that same thing who are freshmen and younger guys, because it’s such a hard road.”
So, does Kiffin and his coaching staff instruct the current batch of walk-ons and scout players not to go too hard?
“Absolutely not. They tell them to go full speed,” Reveiz said. “They try to get the No. 1 offense and defense (ticked) off that those scout guys are coming to play.”
That certainly applies when discussing this former scout-team linebacker.
John Moorehouse covers University of Tennessee football for the Times-News. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.