Patience isn’t a measurement in recruiting.
There’s no listing of the virtue next to height, weight and 40-yard dash time.
If there were such a stat, Zak Tait might well lead the country in the patience quotient.
The News Sentinel’s ninth best prospect in the state sat out all of last season after suffering a devastating knee injury in 2007. He learned patience while being a patient, overcoming two knee surgeries and countless days laying in front of the television as his knee healed.
So when it comes to recruiting — and waiting for scholarship offers — Tait doesn’t get too antsy.
“You can’t rush something like this,” the 6-foot-4, 295-pound offensive lineman from Catholic High School said. “You can’t push a coach to offer you.
“You’ve got to be patient. Having an injury like that gave me a lot of patience, so I can wait as long as they want.”
Tait already has offers from Colorado, New Mexico and Iowa State. Several others are evaluating, including Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Auburn and Alabama.
“Honestly, I don’t care where I get offers from, who offers and who doesn’t,” Tait said. “I’ve got two more already than I need. I just need one scholarship to play at one school. I could have 100 offers but at the end of day I’m only going to go to one place and play for one team.
“Right now I’m just concentrating on Knoxville Catholic because that’s who I play for now.”
Tait has been to camps at Georgia Tech, Auburn and UT to showcase his medically mended wares. The reviews have been positive.
“It’s been really good actually,” Tait said of his performance during UT’s camp. “I had a really good time. I thought I showed up and did really well in the one-on-ones. I feel really good about what I’ve done this summer and what I’ll be able to do the rest of the summer.”
Tait’s knee is 100 percent. He said he’s bigger, faster and stronger than he was before his injury. Still, the questions will linger, likely until Tait shows college coaches just how healthy he is this fall. Spring practice went well but recruiters always want more.
Until his senior season begins, Tait tries to dispel any myth that he’s not full go.
“I read some article after the UT camp that said I tweaked my knee,” Tait said. “To put all rumors to end, I did not tweak my knee. It is completely fine.”
Tait said he was misquoted in the unspecified report.
“I didn’t say that at all,” Tait said. “I was a little upset and a little confused with that misquote but worse things have happened to better people.”
Tait isn’t just a better prospect physically; he also has a better approach to the game than he did before his injury.
“As a player, it has changed me,” he said. “Obviously I care more about football now than most high school players do. It has changed the way I look at the game, how people play it and how I play it really.
“I try to coach myself now while I’m playing. Being on the sidelines for a year and watching everyone, I’ve become very hard on myself. I like to push myself when I’m on the field.”
Perspective of football and life has pushed Tait to be more of a leader than he was before. That could come in handy as Catholic ushers in new football coach Scott Meadows.
“I’ve been trying to get the message across to the team that we’ve got to trust each other on the field,” Tait said. “Sitting out all last year, I really felt like I needed to take more of a leadership role vocally and that’s what I did.
“It’s never fun to be yelled at by a coach. But being yelled at by another player, that’s better that way. You can relate to them.”
Tait isn’t the type to have a chip on his shoulder. He’s not solely out to prove the doubters wrong who question the health of his knee. He’s just happy to be a football player again.
If that means some naysayers are silenced, so be it.
“I’m just trying to do all the work I can to show that I’m as good as a lot of people think,” Tait said, “and hopefully better than a lot of people think.”