Catholic star gets UT football scholarship despite troubled past

Daniel Hood

Daniel Hood

Knoxville Catholic High School’s Daniel Hood signed a football scholarship with the University of Tennessee on Tuesday afternoon.

That the once sought-after recruit signed nearly three months after many of the nation’s elite players is a result of Hood’s role in the sexual assault of a female relative when he was 13 years old. But it is also a result of supporters who emphatically say that Hood, now 19, has earned the continuation of a second chance he was given by Catholic High School.

“We didn’t go about this lightly,” UT coach Lane Kiffin said in a statement Tuesday. “We spent a lot of time researching the issue and talking to a lot of people who are well-respected in the community. Everyone spoke very highly of Daniel. He’s a very bright young man who wants to move past this incident and be a good representative for the team, the university and the community.”

Hood was tried as a juvenile and found to be delinquent by a jury “on the basis that he had committed the adult offenses of kidnapping and aggravated rape,” according to records from a 2006 appeal.

Court documents reveal details of the incident, including duct tape being placed over 70 percent of the victim’s body and the use of an object in the assault.

The victim, who was 14 at the time of the Aug. 11, 2003, incident at Hood’s family home in Sullivan County, was a relative. A 17-year-old who participated in the crime, Robert Sanico, was tried as an adult and is serving a 10-year sentence at Northwest Correctional Complex in Tiptonville, Tenn.

Hood, meanwhile, was placed in the custody of the Department of Children’s Services. After completing a rehabilitation program at Mountain View Youth Development Center in Dandridge, DCS transferred Hood to a group home in West Knoxville.

Hood was later admitted to Catholic High.

“It was probably about a two-week process for us in terms of talking to a lot of people, but it was obviously a little bit of a leap of faith for us,” Catholic Principal Dickie Sompayrak said. “Daniel’s just been incredible. Football aside, as just a student and a school citizen at Knoxville Catholic … he’s been a blessing to our school.”

Sompayrak also went on to say, “We’ll put our school’s reputation on our recommendation for Daniel Hood.”

Hood, who paid his own way at Catholic, had not played organized sports in three years prior to being admitted, Sompayrak said.

While academics were his reason for enrolling at Catholic, Hood took up football and blossomed into a 6-foot-5, 255-pound defensive end and tight end who was named Class 3A Mr. Football this past season and helped the Irish win their first football state championship.

Even before his senior season, a slew of major college programs recruited Hood. But as news of his role in the 2003 incident began to circulate last year, scholarship offers all but disappeared.

In February, Hood applied to Tennessee, Ole Miss and Carson-Newman College. He did not have a scholarship offer from UT at the time, although Hood met with Kiffin for more than an hour to discuss his role in the incident.

Hood also talked with UT’s new head coach about how he has changed since then, which Hood echoed in a nearly 45-minute interview Tuesday afternoon.

Hood, who according to court documents from his jury trial in 2004 initially “rationalizes the offense with little guilt or remorse,” said he does feel remorse for his role in the incident.

“I had a good friend tell me I should go as far west as possible,” Hood said. “But I don’t think that it’s a situation that I should try to avoid. It was heinous. It was awful. Any bad thing you could say about it would probably fit it.

“But I think it’s not trying to put it in a corner and forget it ever happened. I think you have to take it and learn from it and grow from it. … I’ve got a debt to (the victim) that I can never repay, just trying to throw it away like it never happened would be the worst thing I could do for her.”

According to UT athletic department director of public relations Tiffany Carpenter, the victim wrote a letter on Hood’s behalf urging the university to admit him.

Carpenter said UT conducted a thorough investigation into Hood that included speaking to dozens with knowledge of Hood and his case. According to Carpenter, Hood’s admission to UT went through the dean of students and UT’s general counsel was not a part of the process.

“Everyone just glowed about Daniel and about what a great young man he’s become,” Carpenter said.

Stan Branson, Catholic’s dean of students, was among those who recommended UT give Hood, who posted a 3.8 GPA and a 27 on his ACT, a chance.

“He’s one of the most looked-up-to young men at our school,” Branson said. “I don’t know of anyone that would say a harsh word against him at Knoxville Catholic. To me, he’s just an ideal young man. … I can’t say anything will ever happen. But I sincerely in my heart feel that he will live an exemplary life.”

Men’s athletic director Mike Hamilton said in a statement: “Daniel made a terrible mistake a number of years ago and was involved in a very bad thing. He’s very remorseful and has worked hard to turn his life around. Catholic High gave him a second chance, and he lived up to expectations. We feel like he has earned the chance to continue that.”

Hood acknowledged that some will not be able to see past his mistakes. He is confident, though, that he’ll be able to handle any criticism that comes his way, in large part because of his faith.

“I know people are going to form their opinions about me. Everybody’s entitled to that. The only thing I can do is prove who I am now,” Hood said. “Every day is a new battle. There’s a new person I can meet. They may have a prejudice set up against me. But I have a chance to prove who I am every day and not only to be a witness to some of the correctional facilities and the jobs they’re doing of putting out rehabilitated people, but more directly be a witness for Christ for the sake of his church.”

Drew Edwards may be reached at 865-342-6274.

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Comments » 259

volsbats12 writes:

Oh gosh some people are going to drive this story into the ground.

volpreacher writes:

Let's give him a chance. Everyone deserves a second chance. And he seems to have proved that he will try to overcome.

Exfix writes:

Awesome. Dropped BJ for this guy.

volpreacher writes:

in response to Exfix:

Awesome. Dropped BJ for this guy.

No, BJ dropped himself. It was his choice.

senracjr writes:

Christ forgives and the one he did this against forgives him, but some of you can't.Think about it,the ones he did no wrong to condemns him. Isn't that strange?

volpreacher writes:

in response to senracjr:

Christ forgives and the one he did this against forgives him, but some of you can't.Think about it,the ones he did no wrong to condemns him. Isn't that strange?

Amen. It is not our place to judge. And if he messes up that will be his last chance. Give him a shot on the field and off the field. I'm glad that Christ gave me plenty of second chances.

senracjr writes:

In the words of Forrest Gump "thats all I have to say about that".

volpreacher writes:

Let me correct myself before someone starts picking at my statement. I said if he messes up, that will be his last chance. I was referring to football, not Christ.

RockyTop writes:

Sounds like the Victim has forgiven him. I think everyone else should hold judgement and see what this young man can do with his life. Good Luck and God Bless You, Daniel.

GerryOP writes:

in response to senracjr:

Christ forgives and the one he did this against forgives him, but some of you can't.Think about it,the ones he did no wrong to condemns him. Isn't that strange?

Amen.

Swifgriff writes:

in response to senracjr:

Christ forgives and the one he did this against forgives him, but some of you can't.Think about it,the ones he did no wrong to condemns him. Isn't that strange?

Aman Brother
Let the one with no sin throw
the first stone...Bible

HallowedHill writes:

It speaks volumes that the victim wrote a letter to the University on his behalf. He won't have many chances from here on, so he'll have to make the most of the few that come his way. Good luck young man.

Fossilfiction writes:

I myself had legal trouble at 18. I served a few years. What did I learn......
Rapist and child moles are repeat offenders. Most felons are repeat offenders by around 75%. Sexual predators however ranked over 90% has bring repeat offenders. This may be an accident waiting to happen. I hope not. I hope that this young man may have learned his lesson and will be productive in life. My biggestest hurdle has been to find employers to look past my nonviolent offenses. I can only imagen the chaos a job hunt will prove for this kid.
Prove me wrong kid. I hope you do. My faith is in statistics right now.

This is a defensive end not a QB exfix. How do you see this has a replacement, meathead? BJ quit he was not dropped. State facts.

tennezz writes:

in response to volpreacher:

Amen. It is not our place to judge. And if he messes up that will be his last chance. Give him a shot on the field and off the field. I'm glad that Christ gave me plenty of second chances.

Maybe he heard Jesus call his name! I heard him when he called mine!

VolGraduate writes:

Second chances are good but not third chances

newtonrail writes:

Glad I didn't comment on first article. Having two daughters and three granddaughters, I understand the severity of the subject. With the full writeup Drew has given us, I believe he deserves a chance. I heard about the same things this afternoon from Wes Rucker, Chatt Times FP, on Chatt. Sports Talk.

Slystone writes:

Interesting...wow

Vol_from_birth writes:

in response to Fossilfiction:

I myself had legal trouble at 18. I served a few years. What did I learn......
Rapist and child moles are repeat offenders. Most felons are repeat offenders by around 75%. Sexual predators however ranked over 90% has bring repeat offenders. This may be an accident waiting to happen. I hope not. I hope that this young man may have learned his lesson and will be productive in life. My biggestest hurdle has been to find employers to look past my nonviolent offenses. I can only imagen the chaos a job hunt will prove for this kid.
Prove me wrong kid. I hope you do. My faith is in statistics right now.

This is a defensive end not a QB exfix. How do you see this has a replacement, meathead? BJ quit he was not dropped. State facts.

well all i would say is that the kid was 13 when he committed the crime. your mind set totally changes between the ages of 13-18. i have faith that this guy has changed for the better...

Goodvol writes:

It appears he has done everything that he can since the incident and has been a model student at Catholic High. No one has to like what he did but he is trying to be a positive role model in the way he is conducting himself right now. I would not treat him any different than the rest of the players on the team. He does not deserve a short leash anymore than the rest of the team. His positive actions the past several years probably exceed the positive actions of many of the other incoming players. He has earned the right to be treated equal at this point.

Coach Kiffin believes this kid deserved a spot on the team. I consider him All-Vol and I will support him and hope for great success for him on and off the field.

belayvol writes:

Good story Drew. A more complete story without intent to incite opinion. The good cop/bad cop between you and Adams is a little hokey though.

us43137415#376444 writes:

I feel good about this one..
If half the players who get in trouble at UT would adopt his attitude about mistakes, we'd have a national championship team.
Make us proud, Danny Boy!

dc4 writes:

The jokes will drive us crazy, and this guy probably won't ever see the field...

belayvol writes:

One good thing about the 3 stories on this, nobody is responding to the lopers at all. They are probably feeling like last weeks chinese food.

gnm53108 writes:

in response to belayvol:

Good story Drew. A more complete story without intent to incite opinion. The good cop/bad cop between you and Adams is a little hokey though.

Agree,good story.

And yeh,a little hokey.But who better to make a bad cop than someone who hates everything involving the university of Tennessee?

gnm53108 writes:

in response to belayvol:

One good thing about the 3 stories on this, nobody is responding to the lopers at all. They are probably feeling like last weeks chinese food.

Dog and cat?

BigVolFaninSC writes:

in response to Swifgriff:

Aman Brother
Let the one with no sin throw
the first stone...Bible

It was Jesus himself that said this...just to clarify further; and I say AMEN to all who believe in forgiveness! Miracles come in all forms.

MidTennVol writes:

First I've ever heard of this story. And, based on the article, it hits me very close to home. About 35 years ago, I too was locked up for many, repeated mistakes (nothing like what this young man did).

I deserved being locked up. Needed it. And it got my attention & changed my life.

People gave me a second chance so I'm all for leaving this kid alone and wishing him well.

belayvol writes:

in response to gnm53108:

Dog and cat?

Mongolian BBQ China Buffet?

raynochonspeed#212632 writes:

in response to volpreacher:

Amen. It is not our place to judge. And if he messes up that will be his last chance. Give him a shot on the field and off the field. I'm glad that Christ gave me plenty of second chances.

If Christ lived now, as a mortal on Earth in 2009, and his daughter were bound with duct tape over 70% of her body and raped by trusted members of her family, would he be so quick to forgive the criminal because he might be good at football?

Why "give him a shot on the field"?

Forgiveness is emotional, spiritual, internal. Forgiveness is not a free pass. A scholarship should be a reward. Getting a free ride to college is a privilege that quite a few non-rapists cannot achieve; if the guy were not a football player, this wouldn't even be a discussion.

It just seems there is quite a bit of hypocrisy in this situation.

It is a bad move in the public eye; it reinforces the belief that athletes deserve preferential treatment; it creates a "powder keg" of controversy - this kid better stay very clean for the next 4 years, or Kiffin and co. might not survive the aftermath.

belayvol writes:

in response to rabidvolfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Because they did homework on the kid and felt like he deserved a 2nd chance which he proved them correct in all aspects?

belayvol writes:

I am pretty sure with his GPA and test scores, he could get in school on a lottery sponsored scholorship without the athletic part being involved.

AlphaVol writes:

Sounds like they did their homework. Welcome to UT young man.

teampenny#658108 writes:

To big of risk. An Vols fans wonder why many others poke fun of us. For gosh sakes it was a relative. It could be worse I guess it could have also happened in a trailer. What would we be saying if Urban Meyers or Nick Saban had signed this kid. I bet we would not be so accepting. If he screws up the whole staff should be fired even if they are coming off a BCS championship! Go Vols

easymoney writes:

in response to Fossilfiction:

I myself had legal trouble at 18. I served a few years. What did I learn......
Rapist and child moles are repeat offenders. Most felons are repeat offenders by around 75%. Sexual predators however ranked over 90% has bring repeat offenders. This may be an accident waiting to happen. I hope not. I hope that this young man may have learned his lesson and will be productive in life. My biggestest hurdle has been to find employers to look past my nonviolent offenses. I can only imagen the chaos a job hunt will prove for this kid.
Prove me wrong kid. I hope you do. My faith is in statistics right now.

This is a defensive end not a QB exfix. How do you see this has a replacement, meathead? BJ quit he was not dropped. State facts.

Are you a repeat offender? Should we be worried about you repeating your crime?

easymoney writes:

in response to CLEMSONVOL716:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I think Daniel Hood will represent UT better than all the ex players we have serving time in jail for drunk driving and selling drugs....and that list gets bigger every year.

ArVol writes:

Horrible decision. Everyone does deserve a second chance but not at the expense of others. The ridicule this will bring is not worth it. We would be all over Saban or Myers if this were them. Stealing, smoking weed, DUIs are one thing- kidnapping and rape are a whole different level. The university should have given him an academic scholarship (since his grades warrant it) and allowed him to continue his life.

BIGEJ writes:

GO VOLS

TnWalker writes:

in response to raynochonspeed#212632:

If Christ lived now, as a mortal on Earth in 2009, and his daughter were bound with duct tape over 70% of her body and raped by trusted members of her family, would he be so quick to forgive the criminal because he might be good at football?

Why "give him a shot on the field"?

Forgiveness is emotional, spiritual, internal. Forgiveness is not a free pass. A scholarship should be a reward. Getting a free ride to college is a privilege that quite a few non-rapists cannot achieve; if the guy were not a football player, this wouldn't even be a discussion.

It just seems there is quite a bit of hypocrisy in this situation.

It is a bad move in the public eye; it reinforces the belief that athletes deserve preferential treatment; it creates a "powder keg" of controversy - this kid better stay very clean for the next 4 years, or Kiffin and co. might not survive the aftermath.

"If Christ lived now, as a mortal on Earth in 2009, and his daughter were bound with duct tape over 70% of her body and raped by trusted members of her family, would he be so quick to forgive the criminal because he might be good at football?"

In a word ... Yes!

CoachFulmer writes:

As the great Coach Brandon Broyles once said, "Good players get you fired."

GO VOLS!

vailvol writes:

football aside, i for one think this shows alot of heart and compassion by kiffin. the easy thing to do would have been to pass on this kid, but he got to know him and gave him a chance. I think its great.

gnm53108 writes:

in response to BIGEJ:

GO VOLS

I'll drink to that.

Go VOLS!

vailvol writes:

everyone here should read The Shack. offers some good perspective on forgiveness.

Basketball_Jones writes:

Does anyone remember the name of the song that came out many years ago that was about the history of Tennessee football? It talked about Gen Neyland, B. Wyatt etc etc?

10volunteers98 writes:

If the Lord has fprgiven him,then who are we NOT to fogive him?He was only 13 at the time.A kid with a kid`s mind.

GatorHater326 writes:

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”- James 5:16

GreerVol22 writes:

in response to vailvol:

football aside, i for one think this shows alot of heart and compassion by kiffin. the easy thing to do would have been to pass on this kid, but he got to know him and gave him a chance. I think its great.

I agree, however the real motive is that this kid must have some talent or otherwise UT would pass. I have read several articles that say this incident cost him 2 full stars on the recruiting boards. Kiffin has been paid to win, he needs talent, and this kid is a longshot but could payoff.

But like I said, if he farts in Lit class, he gone. You can bet that Kiffin has made this crystal clear.

smokeysal22 writes:

Those who have not sinned, please cast the 1st stone......

dvhill100 writes:

Some crimes are unforgivable. Since the victim has forgiven him and I understand she has written a letter of recommendation, let him continue to prove himself rehabilitated.

It is a good sign he could go 3 years at Catholic HS without getting in any kind of trouble, carry the GPA, score high on the ACT, and get recommendations from the staff. Give him a shot.

As far as what the other fans at other schools have to say, when exactly did we suddenly start caring? No one cares about what the fans are saying about LK and his comments. You can't have both ways. You either care what the other fans say or you don't. You can't pick the times and events.

From an atheist, please tone down the religious talk. I have no problem with a person believing in whatever deity they choose, but don't pontificate on a sports thread please. There are plenty of religious threads for you to exchange your views and quotes of scripture. Please don't flame me over my religious views. Freedom to believe or not believe is a fundamental right of our great nation.

smokeysal22 writes:

in response to dvhill100:

Some crimes are unforgivable. Since the victim has forgiven him and I understand she has written a letter of recommendation, let him continue to prove himself rehabilitated.

It is a good sign he could go 3 years at Catholic HS without getting in any kind of trouble, carry the GPA, score high on the ACT, and get recommendations from the staff. Give him a shot.

As far as what the other fans at other schools have to say, when exactly did we suddenly start caring? No one cares about what the fans are saying about LK and his comments. You can't have both ways. You either care what the other fans say or you don't. You can't pick the times and events.

From an atheist, please tone down the religious talk. I have no problem with a person believing in whatever deity they choose, but don't pontificate on a sports thread please. There are plenty of religious threads for you to exchange your views and quotes of scripture. Please don't flame me over my religious views. Freedom to believe or not believe is a fundamental right of our great nation.

Freedom of speech Baby!!!!

DisorientedVol writes:

Did anyone else think of Ted Bundy while reading this article? just curious.

And, dvhill, the whole freedom of speech thing lets them quote whatever they want.

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