Individually, there wasn't much University of Tennessee at Chattanooga sophomore defensive end Davis Tull didn't achieve in 2012.
In his second season as a starter, Tull was the Southern Conference defensive player of the year, made multiple All-America teams and set a Mocs record with 12.5 sacks in a season. Not bad for a player who walked on in 2010 and admits he still has a lot to learn about the position.
UTC coach Russ Huesman said every player in NCAA Division I football dreams of playing in the NFL. Tull is among them, though the 6-foot-3, 230-pounder has numerous goals he wants to achieve before he's done in college.
"It's like the ultimate goal, I guess, making [playing in the NFL] become a reality," he said. "But still only being a junior [next season], you can't really focus on that too much. For us to have not won a championship yet, that's goal No. 1."
As a freshman and sophomore, Tull had UTC career sack leader Josh Williams playing the right defensive end position. Williams drew considerable attention, which often helped free Tull on the left. Williams finished with 23.5 sacks; Tull has 17.5 in two seasons.
Tull said he might be switching sides from time to time this fall, so opposing teams will have to find him and adjust accordingly.
"I'm kind of excited for the new challenge of trying the other side," he said. "I think that will be fun, trying to perfect that other side."
Who will be playing the other end spot remains to be seen. Zack Rayl has been the Mocs' third end the past two seasons, recording two sacks and five tackles for loss in 2012. UTC also has two freshmen who redshirted last season: Vantrell McMillan and Red Bank's Keionta Davis.
To make it to the NFL, Huesman said, players have to start getting ready physically long before their senior seasons. That's not a problem for Tull, who is so driven he sometimes even looks like he's enjoying the mat drills.
"He's gotten to where he's gotten because of hard work," Huesman said.
Tull said the Mocs' numerous oh-so-close losses the past two seasons drive him, but so do good thoughts and memories.
"I take every single thing at my disposal," he said. "Football and all the things that go with it are so passionate and emotional that you can take all of your emotions and if you can, bottle them up and use them."
John Frierson is in his fifth year at the Times Free Press and fifth year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...