Marlin Lane talks outside of Mainland High School
Marlin Lane signs with Tennessee
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - For Marlin Lane, there wasn't any time to rest and reflect after he was arrested for possessing less than 20 grams of marijuana.
No matter that it was Christmas Eve. No matter that the incident likely wouldn't have any effect on him reaching his ultimate goal of lining up as a running back in the NFL.
He had to get tested. He had to clear his name.
"I've never touched drugs in my life," said Lane, one of Tennessee's most highly touted signees for the Class of 2011.
"Just the wrong place, wrong time. It happens."
"It happens," though, just wasn't good enough. Lane and one of his lifelong mentors, Steve Deluca, scoured the North Florida region for a doctor willing to submit Lane to a drug test. Hours later, Lane and Deluca got what they wanted, an entirely negative result that Lane hopes will help in his attempt to have the charge dropped - something that could happen as soon as next week.
"I just want to look ahead and let it stay back," Lane said. "I don't want to go back to that."
Perhaps the ordeal would have been tougher on Lane, a consensus four-star tailback, had he not faced so much adversity throughout his high school career.
In the middle of the night nearly 10 years ago, Lane moved out of his mother's house and in with his father. He attended Mainland High - 25 minutes away in Daytona Beach - instead of DeLand High, a decision that didn't sit well with a number of residents in his hometown. He saw his career flash before his eyes and then his stock on recruiting websites fall when he shredded his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee late during his junior season. He saw a longtime coach resign midway through his senior season because of the coach's arrest in a prostitution sting.
It certainly hasn't been the smoothest path, but it's all had a hand in Lane's landing with the Vols.
"I've been through a lot," Lane said. "I just go through it and wake up the next day and pray for a better day."
Marlin Lane Sr. was moments away from turning off the lights and hopping in his bed when he was startled by a knock at his front door.
A sense of fear was quickly replaced by surprise, as a 10-year-old Marlin and his younger brother, Marquon, wanted inside.
"I'm like, 'What are y'all doing?'" Lane Sr. recalled. "They said, 'We're staying with you; we're living with you.' "
That's all it took for Lane Sr. to oblige.
"I gave him some stability," Lane Sr. said. "I encouraged him."
Lane said he's still close with his mother, who lives just a couple blocks away from his father in DeLand. When he has time after school and workouts, he frequently stops by her house and makes a point to talk to her every day.
He knows far too many whose family situation is much worse.
"Our relationship is really close and everything," Lane said. "I'm just lucky to have both parents."
Lane Sr. was there for Lane when he made one of the first tough decisions of his high school career.
After piling up yards during his two years at Lighthouse Christian Academy, Lane wasn't exactly thrilled about taking the next step of his career at DeLand. Though he was zoned to play for his hometown Bulldogs, Lane wanted to attend Mainland because he wanted to "play with the best" and avoid the trouble that he said would likely follow him at DeLand.
"He was tired of people saying he wasn't playing everybody," Lane Sr. said. "He came to me and said, 'People are saying that I wasn't playing anybody, I wasn't playing nobody, I wasn't this, I wasn't that.' "
Lane, at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, quickly became this, that and one of the nation's highest-rated running backs.
He ran for 758 yards and 12 touchdowns on his way to more than 1,000 yards of total offense in his sophomore season. By the first game of his junior season, Lane had more than 20 scholarship offers from across the country.
That didn't matter much to Lane. He already was committed to Clemson.
Though he wouldn't be able to sign with the Tigers for years, Lane made it official in his own way, getting a tattoo of a small tiger paw next to a train bursting through a brick wall on his right shoulder.
The tattoo proved to be as permanent of a representation of Lane's future as the scholarship Clemson once promised him.
"It's an everyday job, it's a business," Lane said. "I'm not going to knock them off and say anything. I just wish them the best. I'm just going and moving on and not looking back."
Lane didn't think anything of it at the time. It was just a bruise.
But the bruise he suffered on his MCL three weeks into his junior year didn't go away like normal bruises. It lingered.
When he took a carry in a first-round playoff game, Lane went to cut but immediately fell to the ground. His knee felt numb, but he didn't think it was anything major.
Only later, after he walked off under his own power to the sidelines, did Lane find out his ACL was torn and would require surgery.
"He don't feel no pain, nothing," Lane Sr. said. "That's my biggest worry. Sometimes it's time to back off. Sometimes it's not. He don't know when to turn it off."
"Off" wasn't in Lane's vocabulary throughout a grueling rehab regimen that put him back on the football field months earlier than expected.
Working alongside Deluca, director of sports performance at All Star sports camps, Lane went through three-a-days during a grueling summer leading into his senior year. Implementing exercises made famous by former NFL running back Willis McGahee during his recovery from a torn ACL, Lane spent at least one part of his day in a sand pit.
"Marlin was eating it up in that sand pit, man," Lane Sr. said. "I was getting tired looking at him. Marlin was out there dripping wet. He wouldn't back off. It was crazy."
Lane Sr. didn't want his son to play at all during his senior season, but the constant antagonizing from him became too much to bear. After four games, Lane was back in the backfield and running at "80 percent."
A number of recruiting analysts said Lane had lost a step and promptly dropped him down in their respective final rankings. That may have been true during the season, but it's far from it now, Deluca said.
"His speed is up to what it was," Deluca said. "He's cutting and doing the things he needs to do.
"There was the getting used to running with that bulky knee brace on that leg, which, long-term, he won't need."
The injury had little impact on Lane's many suitors, and it didn't initially affect his relationship with Clemson. Even after the Tigers landed a commitment from another one of the nation's top running backs, Mike Bellamy, Lane remained firm with Clemson throughout his senior year.
It wasn't until Lane floated the idea of visiting UT in early January that Clemson delivered an ultimatum that irked him and his father.
Go to Knoxville and say goodbye to the scholarship that had been on the table for 19 months.
"There's nothing saying we can't go on our official visits," Lane Sr. said. "Every visit he went on, Auburn, Miami, he never said he was de-committed."
So, the Lanes went to UT for the weekend. Before they even arrived on campus, the Clemson offer was gone and an unexpected spin had been spread among scouting service websites for the reasoning.
Lane, those sites wrote, no longer held a Clemson offer because of his arrest on marijuana possession.
"That was so unfortunate," Deluca said. "I didn't even care that Clemson decided to change their mind, but they didn't need to point to anything other than they changed their mind because the rest of it was an unfounded excuse."
Lane had little time to be angry about the sudden turn of events. After 19 months of being locked into the biggest decision of his life, Lane had just a few weeks to figure everything out.
Surprisingly and fortunately for UT, it didn't take very long.
"Everything happened for a reason, so I'm pretty sure the man up above just knew where I really needed to be at," Lane said. "It happened so quick."
The wait to clear his name hasn't been as swift, but that, too, is expected to end in a positive way.
"I'm going to move on," Lane said. "It's not like that when they took my scholarship I dropped to a lower status. I upped it."