Marcques Dixon wasn't sure in 2008 if he would have an opportunity to play college football.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound athlete from Southwest DeKalb High School in Decatur, Ga., sat out that football season because of academics.
Dixon returned to the field as a senior and regained the form that allowed him to start as a sophomore at Southwest DeKalb.
That performance led to Dixon signing a national letter of intent with Tennessee on Wednesday.
Dixon said that year away from football allowed him to find the right priorities for his future.
"My parents sat me down and told me I need to refocus myself and find out what was really No. 1," Dixon said. "It wasn't all about football."
It was about balancing life on and off the football field.
Dixon said he wouldn't be ready to move on to college if it weren't for his year away from football in 2008.
"I actually realized there's more to life than just football," he said. "It brought me back down to Earth and got my mind right. It was a very humbling experience for me."
That didn't take away Dixon's confidence on the field.
Dixon said his mental toughness will give him an advantage as he enters the SEC.
"You have to have confidence," he said. "You can't go out there second guessing yourself and your abilities.
"I have the utmost confidence in myself and in my teammates. I'm going to do a lot of trash talking and I know I'm going to back it up."
Lofty Praise: Eddrick Loften was an important piece to UT's 2010 class.
The 6-0, 200-pound safety from Nimitz High in Irving, Texas, signed with the Vols after originally committed to Oklahoma.
Loften fills a position of need for UT, which has to replace departing junior defensive backs Eric Berry and Dennis Rogan.
Nimitz coach Steven Hohenberger said he expects Loften to make an early contribution to UT's defense.
"I cannot believe that there's a better safety that signed (Wednesday) at any school," Hohenberger said on The Sports Animal. "I can see him playing early."
Loften did that at Nimitz. He was a starter and the team's best player as a freshman, according to Hohenberger.
Hohenberger said Loften is also the best defensive back he's ever coached. That group includes Oakland Raiders safety Michael Huff, who won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back at Texas in 2005.
Hohenberger said Loften is a better prospect than Huff was when he left Nimitz for Texas in 2002.
"It's not even close," Hohenberger said.
Soft Sale: Calhoun (Ga.) High quarterback Nash Nance insisted he didn't push teammate Da'Rick Rogers to sign with UT.
Nance committed to the Vols last week. Rogers, who originally committed to Georgia, waited until Wednesday to announce for UT.
Nance said his recruitment of Rogers, one of the nation's most highly touted receivers, was light.
"I just told him, 'I'd love to have you at Tennessee but I want you to make your own decision for yourself, and I want you to do what's best for you,' " Nance said on The Sports Page.
What's best for Rogers turned out to be good for Nance, too.
"I'm glad he picked Tennessee," Nance said.
Not Snowed Over: UT head coach Derek Dooley just smiled about the effect the snowy weather had on UT's recruiting. The Vols had some trouble hosting official visitors last weekend when snow accumulated, making roads difficult to navigate.
"Ya'll made a bigger issue about it than me," Dooley said to the media. "I didn't think it was that big of a deal. It snowed. Guys came in late. It isn't because our program stinks.
"It was happening all over the South. If a guy doesn't want to come here because I-75 is closed for a snowstorm, then I probably don't want him anyway because they're not choosing the college for the right reasons."
Josh Ward is a freelance contributor.