Packer: Where there's a Will there's a way

It was the week before the game at LSU in 2000 and Tennessee fullback Will Bartholomew was not happy. Sure the Vols had just beaten Louisiana-Monroe 70-3 and Bartholomew had played practically the entire game. However, every time the Vols were in a passing situation, he was taken out of the game and Troy Fleming was put in.

"It made me mad," Bartholomew said. "Sure I was starting and playing a lot, but every time we needed to throw the ball Fleming got to catch it out of the backfield."

So, the next day Bartholomew went to offensive coordinator Randy Sanders' office and vented.

"I told him that I could catch the ball," Bartholomew said. "I actually got kind of mad about it. He said that it was Coach (Phillip) Fulmer's decision and that if I wanted to go talk to him we could do that. And, that's just what we did.

"We walked down the hall and went into his office. Coach Sanders said that I had something to say, so I just said it. I told him that I wasn't happy that the ball wasn't coming my way in passing situations. Coach Fulmer has always had a way of being pretty straight forward about things. He looked at me and said, "I don't think you can catch the football.

"I asked him if he'd make a deal with me. Throw me the football in practice, and if I drop any then don't throw to me in the game. But, if I caught the ball in practice, then he had to agree to give me a chance to catch it in the game."

Well, all that week the coaches had passes coming Bartholomew's way in practice and he never dropped one.

"Every time I caught one, I ran over to Coach Fulmer and tossed him the ball to let him know that I caught it again," said Bartholomew. "That week against LSU I scored in the game."

Not only did Bartholomew score, it was on a 16-yard pass from A.J. Suggs.

"After I caught that one, I caught about 30 more passes that season," said Bartholomew. "Coach and I laughed about that the weekend of the Marshall game when I was in town."

Bartholomew, his wife, Shelly, and their two children, live in Nashville. But he finds himself in West Knoxville a lot as he checks in on his D1 Sports Training facility. Bartholomew has opened three D1 facilities in the state -- in Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis. He has plans to open as many as five new locations next year in the Southeast. His concept came from his passion for working out while at UT.

"Johnny Long (UT's strength and conditioning coach) was always a big influence on me at UT," said Bartholomew. "I always wished that I would have had those kinds of facilities when I was in high school. So, that's what I'm doing for kids now."

Bartholomew's passion received a little push when he ran into old friend and NFL star Peyton Manning while working out at UT.

"We got to talking about my ideas and Peyton was intrigued," Bartholomew said. "He asked me how he could be a part of it and we formed a partnership from there."

Manning and Bartholomew joined forces from there and the ball appears to be rolling in the right direction. Each facility trains about 500 kids a week with physical therapy, weight training and nutritionists on site. Bartholomew has always been the kind of person who loved to stare challenges in the face and overcome them. In 2001, the challenge wasn't just Florida, it was some Tennessee fans.

"I was listening to Sports Talk and no one was giving us a chance," said Bartholomew. "Some guy called in and asked what bowl we would go to after we lost to Florida. I got so mad that I called in and told them my name was Bill. They put me on the air and I ripped into the fans for not supporting the Vols. I never said who I was but I made my point.

"There was no doubt we were going to win that game. We had a seniors meeting that week and talked about the lack of respect we were getting. I'll never forget the feeling when we won that game."

Bartholomew always over achieved on the football field. Now, just a few years out of school, he's over achieving in the business world with his training facilities.

"We're not there yet, but we're getting there," said Bartholomew.

© 2006 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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