It was a move not every player would be willing to make and that speaks volumes not only for Chris Mayes' versatility but also for his character.
With just one season of eligibility remaining with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team, Mayes agreed to switch from the defensive line, where he had played for 23 games including 11 last season, to offensive line.
And as the Mocs finished their second day of spring practice in shorts and helmets Wednesday evening, the 6-foot-3, 295-pound rising senior is penciled in as the starter at right guard.
"It's very hard to do," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said. "Very hard. Especially, it's his last year doing it, so it would be different if he was a sophomore and you could say he's got time to get better. He's got to get better fast. We need him to be really good.
"He's a hard worker, a bright kid, and that's the reason we felt he could do it because he's got a great mentality and is such a hard worker. But it is a tough transition, physically and mentally."
Making it even tougher, Mayes hasn't played on the offensive line since his senior season at Murfreesboro Riverdale, five years ago.
But with an overflow of talent on the defensive line, which projects to be the deepest position on the team, and two open positions on the offensive line up from grabs, Mayes and Huesman decided during offseason meetings that the transition could be good not only for him, but for the team.
Last season Mayes was in a three-man rotation on the defensive line, which meant he typically was in for only about 25 snaps. Coming from a competitive family, where his brother also played college football and his father played at Middle Tennessee State University, Mayes jumped at the chance to become more of an on-field factor.
The Mocs return both offensive tackles and Synjen Herren appears to have left guard locked down as well, leaving a battle for center and right guard, which looks to be a natural fit for Mayes.
"Me and Coach Huesman discussed it, and we both felt it was best for me and to help the team out so I was all for it," Mayes said Wednesday evening, after just his second day of work at his new position. "I decided since the team had more of a need on the offensive line and since I could help that it would be a good move.
"A lot of people think it's an easy transition, but its a big change in techniques used and philosophy. I've been progressing according to the coaches. Not as fast as I would like, but I'm getting there. A lot of it is just patience. It's a big adjustment for me, but whatever will help the team, I'm all for."
After two days of working out in shorts and helmets, the Mocs will put on full pads for the first time this spring on Friday and Saturday. Asked how much he's looking forward to Friday, and the chance to line up against his former defensive mates, Mayes' eyes widened as he said, "I'm very anxious to come off the ball and hit somebody in the mouth."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...