Coach Phillip Fulmer talks to the media Tuesday, Oct. 7 about how the team did against NIU and the upcoming game against Georgia. Watch »
From Sunday through Thursday, Britton Colquitt is right where he's always been. But for the first five games of Tennessee's football season, Colquitt has been somewhere else.
For the first time since 2003, when the former Bearden High School soccer and football standout grayshirted, he hasn't been in Neyland Stadium for a game.
He stayed back in Knoxville when the team traveled to Auburn and out to the Rose Bowl for its season opener against UCLA.
As a result of a February DUI arrest, Colquitt missed the first five games and lost his scholarship. But heading into Saturday's game at No. 10 Georgia (TV: WVLT, 3:30 p.m.), Colquitt is back in the fold.
"I'm thrilled," said Colquitt, who will start in place of Chad Cunningham against the Bulldogs. "I'm light as a feather. I couldn't be happier. The whole thing has been a blessing in my life, football and every part of it. I'm just glad to be back."
Tennessee, which is 115th in the nation in net punting and has had two punts blocked this season, is glad to have him back.
"Britton brings a lot of experience to it, and a much stronger leg from a punt standpoint," UT coach Phillip Fulmer said Sunday. "We have missed him greatly. I appreciate Chad's efforts and all that he's done."
In Colquitt's absence, Cunningham averaged 39.5 yards per punt with a long of 57 yards. Colquitt, though, has a stronger leg and has a career average of 42.4 yards per punt.
In 2006, he posted the fourth-best average in school history (44.9 yards per punt), behind cousin Jimmy (46.9 yards per punt in 1982), brother Dustin (45.3 yards per punt in 2003) and dad Craig (45 yards per punt in 1977).
Following his suspension, Colquitt brings not only a strong leg back to the starting lineup but he has a different outlook on football, too.
"A lot of times you don't know what you've got until it's gone," Colquitt said. "Just having it kind of taken from me for a little bit, I grew a new appreciation for it. The blessing that it really is, that God's given me the opportunity to be out here and the talent and everything."
Colquitt practiced with the Vols through spring drills and fall camp. He's been at practice this season, too. But on game days, he was at home in front of the television watching the Vols with his family.
"It was different watching," he said. "Obviously I didn't like it, but I got through it. It wasn't too bad. It feels like the season just started. That's what it feels like for me."
By virtue of missing UT's first five games, Colquitt said he feels fresh. Last fall, he missed a game early in the season with a quadriceps injury and the injury also limited him on kick-off duty.
Fulmer said Sunday that Colquitt will likely take over on kick-offs as well.
"I'm ready to do it if he calls me to do it," Colquitt said. "Chad's been hitting those pretty good though. It wouldn't be a bad thing if he got those and I got punts and we each could concentrate on that. But if it works out that I do kickoffs, that would be fine. Any way I can help the team."
While Colquitt's suspension didn't exactly help the Vols, Fulmer said it helped Colquitt.
"I'm not with him 24 hours a day, but he seemed to handle it well," Fulmer said. "It was meant to be hard. It was probably as hard on our football team as it was on him. But if it makes a point that helps him in life not to do silly, stupid things, then it was well worth it."
And when Saturday rolls around, Colquitt wants to make every chance he gets worth it, too.
"I feel like I'll go in the game and I'll appreciate every moment a lot more," he said. "Each punt, I won't take anything for granted. I won't half anything. I'll go at it with everything, with a thankful heart."
Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.