KNOXVILLE — Nick Reveiz and Chris Walker spent some of Friday night and all of Saturday morning in their element.
The two former University of Tennessee defensive standouts assisted former teammates and offensive linemen Jarrod Shaw and Cody Pope in conducting “The Tennessee Experience,” a football camp for children ages 7-15 aimed at individual instruction in the same drills and meetings they went through during their Volunteers careers.
Teaching and interacting come naturally for Walker and Reveiz. The defensive end and the linebacker were important leaders as seniors for UT last season, and the Vols — with freshmen and sophomores comprising more than 70 percent of the roster and a chunk of the depth chart this season — must try to fill the void created by their departures.
That process began in spring practice, but the influx of new players for grueling summer workout and conditioning sessions have accelerated the development of any players as leaders.
“I’ve always thought that teams bond in adverse situations and hard situations, and that’s what summer training is,” Reveiz said after Friday’s camp session. “It’s meant to break you down and to make you bleed and to make you sweat and to make you hurt, and that’s what those guys are doing right now.
“They’re doing that together, and I think Coach [Derek] Dooley’s tried to make it more of a unified workout having the whole team go at one time instead of just random times of the day. I think that will work out good for them.”
Both former players have remained in Knoxville to train on campus before their next career moves. After the camp finished Saturday, Walker left for Hartford, Conn., where he’ll join Shaw in playing for the Colonials of the United Football League. Reveiz is waiting for the resolution of the NFL lockout in hopes of receiving a free-agent deal and training-camp invitation.
“Hopefully we set a good example as to what leaders are supposed to be,” Walker said. “Some people aren’t very vocal leaders; some people are vocal leaders like myself. They’re going to have to have some younger guys step up and be leaders as well. Once they have that core group of guys that are going to step up and be leaders on that team, that’s when they’re going to go to the next level.”
UT has just 12 scholarship seniors, and that total includes long snapper Nick Guess and Jake Storey and Shane Reveiz — Nick’s brother — two former walk-on linebackers who were granted scholarships last month. The Vols’ junior class isn’t much bigger, but even with UT’s youth, it’s up to the experienced players to set the example.
“When I came in a freshman,” Walker said, “there were guys that you knew were the unquestioned leaders just by, one, they were seniors, but how they worked and how they interacted with the younger guys and taught us. I think that’s what’s going to have to happen on this team. There are going to be a lot of young guys; you might have to take different approaches with a lot of them. That’s what we had to do last year.
“But once you get guys ... that can really interact with these guys and really get on their level — because it’s different coming from a coach than it is from a [teammate] — we’re more likely to listen to our peers. With guys young like that, you just have to show them that you’re there for them. The coaches are going to be on them, but as a leader you have to be able to pick your teammates back up.”
Through seminars for UT’s newcomers, Dooley has taken steps to show what’s required of them as players on and off the field, but on-field leadership is still important.
Reveiz admitted he had his own questions about the current team’s leadership, but through his time near the players, close relationship with his brother and continued friendships with current players, he’s seen positive movement toward answers.
“I think that leaders have already risen up within the ranks, and that was something I had a question about, too,” Reveiz said. “A lot of those older guys, some of them are quieter, so it’s a time for them to rise up. I think they’re going to do that. I’ll think they’ll do better than what we did last year. Where there is the lack of, people always rise to occasion. I’m a firm believer in that, and I know that [they] will do that.”
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...