Don't expect Demetrice Morley to get overly upset if he gives up a touchdown pass or misses a wide-open tackle this fall. The defensive back has some perspective this time around that he didn't have during his first stint at Tennessee.
Perspective came like a blitzing linebacker when Morley was living in his Chevrolet Caprice on the streets of Miami, shortly after being dismissed from UT for academic shortcomings in January 2007.
"I overcame that and just did what I had to do," Morley said during a meeting with the media on Friday following his reinstatement. "I'm just glad to be in orange again."
The journey out of that car and back to Knoxville wasn't easy.
Void of a scholarship or any help from UT, Morley got a job at Calhoun's on the River to pay for classes at Pellissippi State Technical Community College in order to improve his academic standing.
"Just don't take anything for granted," Morley said when asked what he learned from the ordeal. "That's like a life lesson. Something I can tell my kids and grandkids. Let them know that academics are important."
Morley declined to say exactly how he got into academic trouble at UT. But he's quick to point out one of the things that got him back.
The motivation came seven months ago with the birth of his son, Deion.
"That's a big part of my whole life right there," Morley said of his son, who lives in Knoxville. "He's like my shadow. That's my little man. I love him to death. That's my motivation and inspiration right there. He's everything to me.
"I can't let him down so I have to work hard and give it all I have."
UT's coaches should be plenty excited with Morley's return.
Before his dismissal, the star prospect from Killian High School had locked down the starting strong safety position, registering 51 tackles, seven for a loss and two interceptions in 2006. Now with senior Jonathan Hefney's departure, there's a gaping vacancy at safety just waiting to be filled.
Morley's return to UT started to circulate when he showed up for a preseason scrimmage in August. While many were hopeful, even more seemed doubtful that Morley would be able to get his academics in order. Morley, however, had no doubts.
"There wasn't a choice," he said. "I was going to be here and I was going to stay here. I just had to go out and work hard, find a job and go to school and pay for it on my own and do what I had to do."
Morley's return may signal a renaissance for the highly touted 2005 signing class that, so far, hasn't lived up to expectations.
Morley was one of three South Florida prospects that highlighted the class, along with Vladimir Richard and Gerald Williams.
After taking some time to readjust to a new position, Richard worked his way into the offensive line rotation last fall as coaches raved about his potential.
Williams was enrolled and on campus at UT in the summer of 2005 but was told ruled ineligible by the NCAA because of a correspondence class he took in high school. Williams then took a year off from football, attended prep school and is now enrolled at City College of San Francisco.
Williams is expected to make his long awaited return to UT this summer.
"We're one big family," Morley said, "brothers from another mother."
Morley said the toughest times in his latest travails came when he was hunkered down, doing homework as he watched UT's games on television during the fall.
But even that didn't get Morley down. Instead, he said watching his former teammates play motivated him to work even harder.
"There were no low times for me," he said. "I hardly ever have a low time. I'm always happy.
"I thank God for Coach (Phillip) Fulmer for giving me a second chance to show him that I can really work hard.
"It makes me real hungry."