Nick Reveiz: Family influence
Tennessee linebacker Nick Reveiz just doesn't fit the mold.
Head coach Lane Kiffin was taken aback when he first met the stocky junior. And in the weight room, Reveiz is impossible to pigeonhole.
Kiffin's first encounter with the former Farragut High School standout came a day after being hired as UT's head coach. In his usually aggressive style, Reveiz went to Kiffin to introduce himself.
The meeting began with the junior mentioning his father, former Vol Fuad Reveiz, played for the Minnesota Vikings when Kiffin's father, Monte Kiffin, coached there.
Lane Kiffin recognized the surname. What football coach wouldn't? 'Fuad-o-matic,' as fans dubbed Fuad, kicked in the NFL for a decade.
Naturally, Kiffin asked Nick if he also was a kicker.
"He said, 'No, I'm a linebacker.' '' Kiffin recalled. "I kind of felt embarrassed. He just put his head down. I apologized to him. He said, 'You're not the first person to say it.' ''
Nick tried to begin anew.
"Let's take it one step at a time," he said. "I'm a linebacker."
As he has been ever since that one memorable conversation long ago.
Just 8 years old, Nick began his athletic career with a simple father-son talk: "I told him, 'I want to be like you. I just want to play football.' "
Fuad, who also played linebacker when he was young, coached Nick. He also instilled a competitive spirit his son would need to excel in sports. Wrestling was often the training method of choice.
"He still says he can take me, but I don't know about that," Nick said with a smile. "We're just a competitive family. We're always trying to compete and get each other better."
Little is off limits when father and son talk some family trash. Oftentimes Shane Reveiz, Nick's younger brother and a UT walk-on linebacker, will take part when playfully attacking dear old dad.
"We always tell everybody that we're the real athletes and that Dad just kind of kicked the ball for fun," Nick said. "It's just kind of a little hobby he had. It wasn't a real profession."
Opposing ball carriers rarely have fun when they meet up with Nick, who is good for at least one hard hit per practice.
"I like to say I have a nose for the football so I just try to find the football every single play and get to it as fast as I can," he said.
Those instincts have Reveiz locked in a battle for the starting middle linebacker job with redshirt freshman Herman Lathers.
If Lathers wins the job, he won't win it in the weight room, where Reveiz rules.
Reveiz ranks high among the athlete lifters who UT conditioning coach Mark Smith has worked with in 16 seasons in college and the NFL.
"Way up there," Smith said. "There's not a day that I've been here that we've trained that he didn't have the fire in his eye."
The fire burned brightest just before spring practice as the Vols held their testing day.
Reveiz walked into the weight room ready to set the bench press repetition record with 275 pounds - the weight lifted for linebackers and fullbacks. Then, Smith stepped in Reveiz's path.
"He said 'No, you're going 315 big guy. Dan Williams got nine.'" Reveiz recalled Smith saying. "I was like 'All right, I'm going to get 10 then."
Sure, Williams may have repped out nine times with 315 pounds but he is a 6-foot-3, 320-pound defensive tackle. Reveiz is 220 pounds and 5-feet-10 - with cleats on.
Smith knew how Reveiz would respond.
"He talks back 'You can't break me!' '' Smith said. "I knew he would eat that up."
Sure enough he did. Reveiz pushed the weight up 10 times, ranking third among UT's linemen, behind only Jacques McClendon's 14 and Vladimir Richard's 12.
"I didn't know he would finish that high," Smith said.
The compliments of Reveiz have been just as strong while he's been on the field. Kiffin says Reveiz prepares as well as any Vol.
"He's taken to this defense," Kiffin said. "He's always up there (in drills). We always have to kick him out he's around so much. It's paid off. I love the story."
Thanks to his lineage and work ethic, Reveiz had duly impressed UT's last coaching staff, as evident by him playing in every game last season and starting one.
Former head coach Phillip Fulmer knew what Fuad meant to UT's program. Defensive coordinator John Chavis had seen Nick pay his dues.
Had there not been a coaching change, Nick may already have been named a starter at middle linebacker. Now, he's forced to impress a new staff.
"Wherever I could help the team," Reveiz said, "that's where I want to play."
As long as it's not kicker.