Photo by Adam Brimer
Michael Carillon knew he had made a mistake.
When the former Webb School football standout got going into his first semester of college at Tennessee this past fall, he said he felt not playing football left a large void in his life.
His second chance is on the way. Carillon, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound freshman, has accepted an opportunity to walk on at Tennessee. He will play defensive back.
Carillon made the News Sentinel's All PrepXtra First Team as a senior and was also tabbed an all-state player by the Tennessee Sports Writers Association. He made 47 tackles and three interceptions in the 2009 season, which ended with a Division II-A state title for Webb.
"Right out of high school I decided not to go play somewhere else, like a smaller school," said Carillon. "I wanted to come to UT and get my academics started. The first semester, I couldn't help to still have that inside me, knowing that I should be playing somewhere. It dawned on me to go and walk on.
"That's what I did. I started working out first semester when I realized I needed to do this."
Carillon approached the Tennessee coaching staff late in the fall and initially thought he'd have to try out. That wasn't the case. Carillon said he was told coach Derek Dooley and his staff don't conduct tryouts, that they'd rather analyze the players' high school films.
Carillon submitted his. He was informed Wednesday that he was one of three chosen to walk on.
Carillon said he was told he may be needed as soon as spring practice, given the recent depletion of Tennessee's secondary. Safety Janzen Jackson left school for personal reasons and Brent Brewer was suspended indefinitely pending an investigation into domestic assault charges.
"That got me pretty excited," said Carillon. "I have to get even more in-shape and ready in case they call me in."
He consulted with current walk-ons and former Catholic stars Dorian Cozart (running back) and Nick Branum (defensive back) about his decision. He's been working out five days a week.
"It's going to be a shock," he said. "It's just like every spring when you go out for practice, you start doing those hitting drills and you're a little nervous at first. But once you get hit, it's natural again. I'm excited for that."
Carillon added he's been a "die-hard Tennessee fan" since the day he was born.
"(Wednesday) night, one of my uncles called me who is one of the biggest Alabama fans ever," said Carillon. "He said, 'I heard some news today. I'm not going to say anything about Rocky Top or the Vols, but I just want to say congratulations.' So, that was pretty funny."