When Nick Branum reports June 1 for his first team meeting with the University of Tennessee football team, he'll be a walk-on officially.
But Branum won't see it that way.
"(Defensive coordinator Monte) Kiffin said the walk-on word isn't even a word he wants to use," said the 6-foot, 185-pound defensive back from Catholic High School.
"It hasn't even crossed my mind to think I'm a walk-on, how they've treated me."
Branum told Tennessee coaches Tuesday he would accept the preferred walk-on spot. In the two weeks prior, he met with members of the staff three times to talk football Xs and Os and the possibility of a role with the team.
He didn't walk into the athletic department offices on flower petals or red carpets, but he was "catered to." It could be an early testament as to how significant the first-year Tennessee staff considers its walk-on spots. South-Doyle offensive lineman Chase Phillips will also walk on.
Branum talked to defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin "every two days" and even sat with him to break down film of Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Sabbi Piscitelli and former Tampa Bay safety John Lynch.
"(Monte) really wants me to play like them," said Branum, who had 35 tackles, eight pass break-ups and three interceptions this past season. "They want to use me inside the box and cover all the way out into the flats.
"He taught me so much from the three meetings we had. He knows so much about football."
Branum, who has been clocked as low as 4.37 seconds in the 40, fractured a vertebrae this past season and missed roughly half the games, he said. But the limited game film he had from his senior season still carried a "wow" element. Mississippi State and Alabama also wanted Branum on their campuses.
"When Mississippi State, Alabama and Tennessee saw my film," said Branum, "they - Coach (Monte) Kiffin was like, 'Wow. I can't believe that we're actually lucky enough that you haven't signed yet.' "
Branum hopes to earn a scholarship soon, even as early as this fall.
"(Tennessee's coaches) said, 'You're going to have the opportunity when we come into fall camp to show us what you can do. Everything we're going to give you is yours to lose. So, if you play as hard as you can and do whatever you can to get on the field, you'll earn a scholarship.' "