Emmanuel Negedu has put his nightmarish experience behind him and is ready to start living his dream again.
The former Tennessee men's basketball player who suffered a cardiac event on Sept. 28 and had an ICD device implanted in his chest said he has made a verbal commitment to play for New Mexico and will sign on Monday.
"Coach (Steve) Alford told me he had already talked to the legal department there to get that cleared, and I just had to see the cardiologist,'' said the 6-foot-7, 220-pound Negedu, who visited New Mexico earlier this week. "That went well, so I got my dream back. I'm happy and I'm excited.'
“There will always be a place in my heart for Tennessee no matter where I go, and I would love to stay here but this is working out for me to follow my dream and do what I do best. I know they will understand, and I give them my love.’’
Negedu, a 21-year-old originally from Kaduna, Nigeria, said he wanted to thank the Tennessee staff and fans.
"Without all of them, there would be no me,'' said Negedu, who was revived in the UT indoor football facility by trainer Chad Newman after his heart stopped. "I want the Tennessee fans to know this has been a great place for me, and I want to thank them for their prayers and their support."
UT athletic director Mike Hamilton denied last month Negedu's request to stay and play with the Vols, a difficult decision Hamilton said he had to make in the best interests of Negedu and the school.
Tennessee assistant coach Steve Forbes said he understood the decision, but maintained his support of Negedu's wishes.
"Once the Indiana thing fell through it was a natural for him to visit New Mexico because of his familiarity with the staff there,'' said Forbes, referring to Negedu's visit to the Hoosiers earlier this month. "That coaching staff at New Mexico recruited him hard when they were at Iowa, and Emmanuel knows them and feels comfortable with them.
"There's a part of me that will always be worried - I was there when it happened,'' said Forbes, who recruited Negedu and stayed at the hospital with him through the night after the cardiac event. "But we can't live our lives like that, in fear.
"We're going to miss him in the locker room and as a teammate, but also, just his presence as a person.''
Negedu said he plans to enroll at New Mexico in June for summer school and expects to be granted a waiver by the NCAA to play immediately. He has three years of eligibility left.