Nick Reveiz: Aaron Douglas had 'great heart'

Nick Reveiz

Nick Reveiz

Archived video: Lane Kiffin praises RT Aaron Douglas

The big No. 78 was impossible to miss.

Growing into his impressive frame and blossoming into a freshman All-American, the digits on the front and back of the Tennessee jersey of Aaron Douglas were hard to ignore.

But it was the smaller numerals, the ones on either side of him scribbled just above a pair of enormous hands, that really captured the attention of at least one observer on the sideline.

In black ink on white tape, Douglas had scribbled some different numbers to honor an injured teammate - and now Nick Reveiz is trying to think of a way to return the favor to his friend after Douglas' death in Florida on Thursday morning.

"When I got hurt in 2009, it was a hard time for me and it was tough going out there and seeing everybody playing when I couldn't," Reveiz said. "That next game, I remember Aaron put '56' on his wrist-tape on both wrists on the outside so you could always see it. He just told me that he was going to play for me, wrote it on his wrist-tape like every single game after that for the rest of the season.

"That's something I'll never forget."

Teammates and coaches from all over the country were latching onto those memories after Douglas was discovered dead on a second-story balcony early Thursday by the Fernandina Beach (Fla.) Police Department.

Douglas didn't quite follow the smooth path he planned for his collegiate career after a wildly successful run at Maryville High School before signing with UT, leaving after two seasons with the program rather than endure a third coaching change after Lane Kiffin bolted for Southern California.

But his journey from Knoxville to Arizona Western College and ultimately Alabama for spring practice this year gave him plenty of opportunities to make an impact on others - and many rallied to offer support for him on social networks throughout the day.

"RIP Aaron Douglas," former Crimson Tide quarterback Greg McElroy posted on Twitter. "Enjoyed what little time I spent with you and I know you will be watching over us."

McElroy never actually had a chance to play with Douglas, who fulfilled the requirements UT coach Derek Dooley laid out for him last season by transferring at least an eight-hour drive away from Knoxville when he packed up for Arizona Western. But like he did at previous stops, the loyal and good-natured Douglas didn't seem to have any problems winning over people in or around the Alabama locker room.

The fact Douglas was even in it caught some by surprise, particularly given his legacy status at UT since both of his parents were products of the athletic program. But after spending the year far from home, Douglas was cleared to move back closer to it, which he did by signing with the rival Crimson Tide in December and immediately starting to compete for playing time this fall.

The decision for Douglas could have given him two shots against his old program and some former teammates, and after wearing No. 77 in spring practice with Alabama, his senior season might have afforded him yet another set of numbers to wear in Neyland Stadium. But regardless of the different jerseys or teams, at least to Reveiz, Douglas always will be remembered for putting on the numerals that didn't even belong to him.

And now Reveiz is trying to think of a way to honor Douglas in return.

"He took a lot of criticism and a lot of things that really weren't fair," Reveiz said. "But this whole situation, you realize just how fragile life is. I don't view Aaron any differently for going to Alabama or anything like that. I just feel as a friend and as a good guy, my heart and my prayers go out to his family. This is obviously so unexpected and so abrupt, my viewpoint of Aaron will never change. He's a great kid, great heart and that's how I'll always view him.

"I'll have to think about just how I can honor him. I'd love to honor him, whether it's playing in an NFL game or whatever it is. These are moments that you never forget throughout your life."

Austin Ward covers Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Vols_Beat and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/ward.

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Comments » 14

eVOLved writes:

So sad.

voloffaith writes:

Nick well spoken with the animosity removed from an enemy team foe to a fallen friend who lost his pathway. May the family come to know(if not already) the peace that passes all understanding....

VOLliven2it writes:

Just hard to grasp all this for a guy we wondered about but I for one would never have thought this could happen. So saddened for his family, friends and teammates. May the peace of God be felt in hearts and minds of all who bear the pain of this great loss.

iowavol writes:

A nice piece by Nick. In death, we often are brought across lines of division to recognize how feeble we really are. May God's grace be felt in the Douglas family for it is already given.

Volunteer-Varmint writes:

My prayers and sympathy go to his family and friends. RIP Aaron.

Bigger_Al writes:

The starkness of this is incomprehensible. UT's faithful prodigy. a legacy and a favored son, gone wrong, reincarnating himself as a steed of a hated rival. His demise shows how absurd the lines we draw as fans can really be.

Halls3 writes:

in response to Bigger_Al:

The starkness of this is incomprehensible. UT's faithful prodigy. a legacy and a favored son, gone wrong, reincarnating himself as a steed of a hated rival. His demise shows how absurd the lines we draw as fans can really be.

Have to agree. Even in his death some people still have distasteful comments to make. Hate to see this happen to anyone, especially with the talent Douglas had. Also, I feel for his family, especially his dad who went through so much this year with UT fans. In today's world, I think it's time for everyone to step back from the keyboard, breath, & have more compassion & less detest for their fellow man. I know it won't happen but it should. RIP AD, you will be missed by friends, family, & fans alike.

cltvol writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

very good idea

BillyVol writes:

Nick is a class act. I pray for the family. These next few days, months, and years will be hard on this family. All I have been thinking about is, oh what might have been.

toddbinkley writes:

One really has to entirely remove the football element from this tragic passing of a young man's life. The weight far surpasses UT or Alabama entirely. I do not think I can receive one just argument on this forum regarding this at all. Let's embrace these parents that just lost their child. None us can possibly grasp the pain of this unless you have unfortunately had to encounter in what has to be the ultimate misfortune in any life as a parent. This is a time for absolute peace.

ps11824 writes:

This is a hard hit to University of Tennessee Athletics and fans of it. His mom, a great Lady Vol, always a Lady Vol and his dad, always a Vol have to be devastated and in shock. All I can say is, "May God be with you in your most difficult time." He is and will be. And your TN Volunteer family is there too, for sure, for whatever you need.

SmokeyDayAfternoon writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Totally agree. Hope it happens.

volcraze writes:

in response to ps11824:

This is a hard hit to University of Tennessee Athletics and fans of it. His mom, a great Lady Vol, always a Lady Vol and his dad, always a Vol have to be devastated and in shock. All I can say is, "May God be with you in your most difficult time." He is and will be. And your TN Volunteer family is there too, for sure, for whatever you need.

Well said my friend. My thoughts and prayers are with this family.

BubbaJ writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Great idea. Would like to see coaches Dooley and Sabin get together on this, would be a very classy thing to honor family before game in October with both coaches present.

As much as myself and other Vol fans dislike the Tide, and vise versa for Tide fans, maybe just this one time, we could all just leave it on the field. Sorry that so many of you Bama fans have had to go through so much lately.

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