Former Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen is doing just what he did when he came to Knoxville back in 2000. He is working hard to make a name for himself.
"I'm in the insurance business out here in California," Clausen said. "I'm in commercial and general insurance and personal lines insurance with a company called Poms Associates, Inc. We do a lot of high-end insurance for clients who own a business and have a lot of assets. It's a process getting my name out there, but it's happening slowly but surely."
Clausen was a highly recruited quarterback from the West Coast when he stepped on campus nine years ago. But, he wasn't the only West Coast kid in the program at the time.
"We had a number of us that made the move across the country to play at UT," he said. "Donte Stallworth and Onterrio Smith were two of the biggest-named guys who went over. We actually had 7 or 8 guys from out here who made the move over.
"To be real honest, I didn't have much knowledge of the SEC and that part of the country when I signed. I remember my sophomore year when we were about to play Florida in Gainesville. All week long in the paper and on TV everyone kept saying that we had no shot of winning. They all said that it was an impossible place to win.
"You know, I think that helped me because I was so unaware of what was going on that the atmosphere didn't bother me. To be real honest, it fueled my fire. We had an 'us-against-the-world' approach back then. It may have been because we didn't know any better."
Clausen had a number of great games and great plays during his time wearing No. 7 for the Vols, but the highest of highs and lowest of lows were compacted into a few weeks late in the 2001 season.
"That Florida win down there was huge for us," he said. "We were like an 18-point underdog in that one. That was a real high winning that game and putting Tennessee in the national championship picture. But, then there was the next week against LSU. Man, that one hurt when we lost to them. I've never had one hurt like that.
"Then we went to the Citrus Bowl and played what I think was our best game in my time at Tennessee. Everyone was healthy and we played like we knew we could. To go from the Florida win to the LSU loss and then to the Michigan win was a wild stretch."
As for his legacy at Tennessee, Clausen isn't really sure what it is.
"I don't know, hopefully it's a good one," he said. "We won a lot of games when I was there. I think I had so much success early that the expectations got very high my junior and senior years. My junior year we had just lost a bunch of guys to the draft and then we lost some starters in the spring. We just never got going that year.
"My senior year was the most gratifying for me because of what we overcame to have a very good year. We lost Kelley Washington and Jason Witten that year and still posted 10 wins. That year we won at Florida and at Miami."
As for why the Vols have fallen on hard times, Clausen says it's simply parity in the SEC.
"When I was there, it was really Tennessee and Florida, and maybe Georgia a little bit," he said. "Now, it's literally eight or nine teams. And, back then there were some gimme games. There are no easy ones any more. You can't pencil in a win over Kentucky and Vanderbilt anymore. I spent some time at Mississippi State as a grad assistant and you can't pencil in a win over those guys anymore.
"I will say this, the days of Tennessee recruiting nationally again, and getting guys from the West Coast are coming back. I've known Lane Kiffin for a while and I know that he will go all over the country to get the top guys."
Clausen is coaching quarterbacks at Oaks Christian High School and has a couple of top-notch quarterbacks that he is tutoring and mentoring.
"Nick Montana will be a senior for us next year and he can play," said Clausen. "He already has offers from LSU, Ohio State, Stanford and several other schools. He was up there in Knoxville last week and absolutely loved it. Nick was very impressed.
"Trevor Gretzky will be a junior who just started playing quarterback last year, but that kid is going to be great. He's about 6-4 and has all the tools."
If the names sound familiar, they should. Nick Montana is the son of NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana's son. And, Trevor Gretzky is the son of former hockey great Wayne Gretzky.
"I will say this, you can't understand how impressive it is for a kid to go from out here on the West Coast where the stadiums hold 60,000 to 70,000 stands, to Tennessee where the facilities are the best in the country and the stadium holds over 100,000. For a kid out here, that's unbelievable. I'm not going to sway Nick and Trevor one way or the other in their decisions. However, they've asked me several times about Tennessee and I'm very honest with them. I've told them that if you want to play big-time college football, there is no better place in America than Tennessee and the SEC."
Clausen also thinks Kiffin will change the perception of Tennessee football.
"Look, don't get me wrong, Coach (Phillip) Fulmer was my coach and will always be my coach. But, if Kiffin does at Tennessee what they do at USC, he will open up practices and invite the public to come watch. Pete Carroll did that at USC and what it's done is build a real fire inside kids to be a part of that program. Over the years it builds the passion for kids beyond what it already is.
"Practices will be intense. Those guys at UT don't know what they're in for. From the moment they step on the field it will be non-stop intensity. Kiffin will want practice to be an event.
"Any time you get new, young coaches in a program, they bring a new level of excitement. UT will get kids like Bryce Brown and other top recruits. They are big-time recruiters . . . I mean big-time. It won't be long before Tennessee is back. I may be way over here on the West Coast, but I'm jacked about what's going on in Knoxville."
And, with the recruitment of the top quarterbacks he has, Clausen will be right in the middle of the rebuilding job at Tennessee whether he likes it or not.
Mark Packer hosts the Locker Room, presented by Parkwest Medical Center, on Sunday at 10 p.m. on MyVLT2.