Eric Berry was fast-tracked into Tennessee's starting lineup. His itinerary: Show up on campus; start.
The Vols' other new defensive starter Saturday night against Southern Miss took a more circuitous route.
Dan Williams' journey from star at East High School in Memphis to UT starting defensive tackle has taken him, among other places, through the drive-through window at Krystal.
There were frequent late-night visits to McDonald's. The neon glow of the golden arches was an irresistible siren's call.
Next came countless laps around UT's indoor practice facility. And jogs up the practice-tower steps lugging an 80-pound sandbag.
There was almost a dreaded detour to the offensive line.
At last, a turn for the better. The produce department at Kroger's.
And, of course, regular trips to the scales. The pounds went on, then they came off.
Finally, an evening at Cal Memorial Stadium, where the sophomore was one of the few encouraging notes on UT's defense in a 45-31 season-opening loss.
"Dan played better than the guy in front of him (J.T. Mapu),'' said defensive coordinator John Chavis.
So Williams will play first Saturday night against Southern Miss in the Vols' home opener (TV: pay-per-view, 7 p.m.).
It's a reward not only for playing well at California but for persevering through a body-reshaping ordeal. Virtually every freshman endures that process but Williams' was on a grander scale than most because he arrived on campus on a grander scale than most.
He played his senior year - 2004 - at East at about 325 pounds. By the time he got to UT in the summer of 2005 he was up to about 360.
He admits he got lazy after signing day. His training regimen including extended stays on the couch eating pizza and playing PlayStation with good friend and fellow UT signee Malcolm Rawls.
When he got to Knoxville, the dollar menu at McDonald's was the easy way to go for a hungry football player on a thin college budget.
Somewhere along the way, the message sank in.
"The coach told me, 'If you don't lose weight, you're not going to play,' '' Williams said.
So over time, he lost 55 to 60 pounds. Lost it. Regained some of it. Lost it again.
Chavis and position coach Dan Brooks stayed on him. Nobody stayed on him like Johnny Long, UT's Energizer bunny of a strength-and-conditioning coach.
Turkey sandwiches replaced cheeseburgers. Apple slices replaced french fries.
"One thing I've found out,'' Williams said, "eating healthy costs more.
"But it helps me out. I feel better and I run a lot better.''
Williams redshirted in 2005 and played sparingly in 2006. It wasn't just his weight that held him back.
"I've been on his rear in a big-time way,'' said UT coach Phillip Fulmer, "along with Coach Brooks and Coach Chavis, to step up his play in ballgames.
"There was a point early, even at the beginning of spring last year, you didn't know if he was going to be able to play the position or move to offense.
"I actually had that conversation with him. I was going to move him but the needs of team dictated he stay over there.''
Good thing he did, judging from the Cal game. Williams is committed to keeping his weight at 300 pounds.
He credits Long with giving him the body and Brooks with giving him the know-how to succeed.
"In high school at defensive tackle, you'd just throw the little guys out in front of you,'' Williams said. "In college you have to be more technique wise.
"When Coach Brooks tells you to use your hands, you listen to what he's saying or you get in a scrimmage one day and don't use it and you just get run over.''
Williams wants to make a point of not getting run over Saturday night. The journey continues.
Mike Strange may be reached at 865-342-6276 or email@example.com.