The wide receiver from Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., will arrive on UT's campus today and begin classes in the first session of summer school Monday.
UT's coaching staff has waited a while on Vinson's arrival. He originally signed with the Vols in February 2006 before being ruled academically ineligible.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Vinson, a Hampton, Va., native, said his time at Hargrave has helped him mature and focus on his school work.
Vinson talked about his maturation process at Hargrave and how it will help him when he arrives at UT in this Q&A.
Q: What has the last year at Hargrave been like?
A: It's been a learning experience. It's been able to get me focused. One thing is study habits. I didn't really have a problem with authorities or administrators or dealing with grownups or respecting grownups. It was just me getting my habits down for studying and stuff like that and taking care of my books. It's not that I'm not smart enough to do the work. I had to apply myself and put forth effort to really get my work done. It showed me how to focus and use endurance and stay in class, and keep going throughout the year. I just stay focused so I can complete and do what I have to do and accomplish my goals. It helped me out with a lot of things as far as going away from home and being able to realize there's nothing at home for me. I have to go through my own thing and kind of be selfish and worry about my own future and get my stuff done.
Q: How much better has it felt since you've learned to focus on your academics?
A: It made me feel real good. Now I've got all the confidence. I already know what I'm capable of and now that I know how easy it is for me to put forth just a little bit of effort and get my stuff done, I'm not going to let anything slip away or blow any opportunities because I've already had a lot of chances. I'm not going to waste them. I know how valuable my future is and how much is riding on me to get my stuff done. I kind of look at myself as having a zero tolerance. I don't want to get in any trouble, not even a little bit. Just get my stuff done and stay focused.
Q: You've talked about your mother feeling better because of your maturity at Hargrave. How much support has she given you?
A: My mom's been with me all the way through anything, through finding a way to help me pay for my bills through school. At Hargrave, going through that process is not cheap. It's expensive getting through there. Handling bills and sticking with me, whatever needed done and getting my stuff done. My brother and I will be the first people to go to college in my family. My mom's been helping me out with a lot of knowledge as far as taking care of my school work. I'm just real thankful for her. She's been with me since day one helping me out. I can count on my hand how many times I've talked to my father. My father had gotten locked up when I was younger. I don't mind talking about that, but he got locked up when I was younger and basically the jail did something illegal to him and he went insane. I've never been able to have a conversation with my father. It's just like somebody close, a friend that you know, like your wife or your brother or anybody in your family. The next day they're fine, but then the next day you wake up and they're talking to themselves and they're just out of it, insane. It's like a bad dream. There's no way you can fix it. I haven't really talked to my dad since I was about 13 years old. I don't know. It's been tough.
Q: What have you done to handle that situation, and have you looked to others for help?
A: I use that as motivation. Even though my dad doesn't realize what I'm doing and he's not stable and not able to understand what I'm doing or see what I'm accomplishing right now, I use it as motivation because as long as he put me here on this earth then I have no room to make any excuses. I'm here as a person. I control myself. I just basically use that as motivation and do it for him. I do it for my father and I just play hard and try to stay humble and get my stuff done. I've got two brothers and my mom. She raised all three of us by herself. She did a good job. My mom's been doing real well. I just feel like I owe her so much for her taking care and getting me to school in Hargrave and all this stuff I've been through in high school. It's just me turning over a new leaf. I gave my word to Coach (Phillip) Fulmer that I was going to turn my stuff around and get the job done at Hargrave and successfully complete the process, and I did. Now I just have to get to school and take care of the rest of my business.
Q: How important is it to you to fulfill your potential now that you've been helped by other people?
A: A lot. There's not really pressure on me because I just do what I've got to do. As the next level comes, I just adapt and I overcome. It's just getting to the next level and whatever I want to do and being able to adjust and do what I've got to do. It's just as well as rec league, then moving to junior varsity and then varsity. I haven't even played all those levels. I only played my junior year and my senior year (at Phoebus High School). This year coming up at Tennessee will be my fourth year of football. My third year was (post graduate) at Hargrave. I've just grown a lot and I learn quickly. I don't know, I've just been doing good. It's staying in the process and working hard and never getting satisfied.
Q: How good does it feel to be finally arriving at UT this weekend?
A: It feels really good. You have those people that are negative and didn't think I could get it turned around and focus and do what I have to do. I didn't worry about that. I just worried about myself and got my stuff done. It's just really important that I get there and do what I've got to do.
Q: How much better have you gotten as a football player over the last year?
A: I just became a good player because the speed went up a level again. By me already having speed and already being real fast and used to that game speed, it didn't seem any different to me. When I get to Tennessee I know it's probably going to seem a little different to me, but I know myself the speed probably won't be any different for me because I'm just going to work hard. I'm not a conceited player, but I think highly. I won't accept less. If I'm out there playing with guys that have already been out there, I'll just keep it in mind to play hard and do what I've got to do and adjust and adapt to that level. Hargrave helped me out a lot as far as maturing and playing.
Q: How much can you help UT's offense in 2007?
A: A lot. As much as possible, just to be able to get the job done. I think I can help out immediately. If I get in there and learn my plays and do what I've got to do I should be straight. My main focus is on learning my plays and getting stuff down pat with the quarterback and learning the system.
Q: What have you talked about with UT quarterback Erik Ainge?
A: He's talking to me about academics and getting my stuff straight and getting set up. He knows what type of player I am and that I'm going to work hard and do what I've go to do. He's just been talking to me about getting my stuff straight and being around the right people and being ready to go to work on Sunday (today).
Q: What kind of goals have you set for yourself at UT?
A: Just to not take a step back. If you don't get better every day then you get worse. I just look at it as progression and working on the stuff I need to work on.