Curt Maggitt ready for action

Updated: March 11, 2014

UT Football

Curt Maggitt could be preparing to enter the NFL Draft. Instead, he’s toiling away in another spring football practice.

Tennessee’s junior linebacker decided to forgo professional cash to help turn a team weakness into a team strength. A year ago no one would have thought linebackers would be a source of pride for the Vols. Gone would be seniors Brent Brewer and Dontavis Sapp.

Senior middle linebacker A.J. Johnson was expected to go pro. It seemed reasonable that Maggitt could pursue that same path if he could return to form after an ACL injury ended his sophomore season.

Another year of seasoning and the 6-foot-3, 244-pounder would be just the kind of versatile athlete that NFL teams are looking for. Maggitt can play as a pass-rushing defense end or an athletic, ground-covering linebacker. Those type of players aren’t very common.

Instead, Maggitt found himself too gimpy to start the 2013 season. Therefore, he and UT head coach Butch Jones decided Jones would redshirt midseason in order to help the Vols in 2014. It was a personal sacrifice for the betterment of UT’s football program. It hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“He’s our leader, he’s the one who has everyone’s respect,” Jones said the often-smiling Maggitt. “When Curt Maggitt talks, everybody listens. He’s the one getting up in front of the room. He’s the one that’s coming to me all the time, that constant communication. Then you look at adding him onto the football field.”

While even some productive players can struggle with leadership, Maggitt was able to lead last season while not even taking the field. He was often complimented for his dedication to getting healthy and pushing his teammates. Rare praise for an injured player.

“Curt is a big leader,” senior cornerback Justin Coleman. “He is a vocal leader, physical leader. He leads by example. He does everything right. When he is out there you can feel the energy from him. If he wants things done you have to get it done for him.”

Last season wasn’t the first time Maggitt sacrificed personal glory for his teammates. As a sophomore, Maggitt wasn’t able to flash his full potential since he was placed at middle linebacker instead of outside linebacker, his more natural position. During that sophomore season, Maggitt even agreed to play hurt, before suffering the more serious knee injury. It’s debatable if Maggitt should have even been playing.

“It was great,” Maggitt said of his complete return to practice last week. “First time being back, being out there with the defense…It was just a good experience.”

Maggitt surely didn’t get what he expected when he signed with UT over most any other school in the nation. The prospect from West Palm Beach (Fla.) Dwyer High School had scholarship offers from countless schools. He took official visits to Alabama, Florida and LSU.

Maggitt could be counting championship rings instead of knee scars had he signed elsewhere. Instead, he’s endured one of the lowest times in UT football history with four consecutive losing seasons. That’s never fazed him.

“I think the guys know that I love the game and that it’s not a show,” Maggitt said. “I truly enjoy being at the complex and love Tennessee. Even though I wasn’t on the field physically I was on the sidelines, at away games and on the scout team. I gave my all, I think the guys see that and they respect that.”

In other words, the NFL can wait a bit longer.

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