Former Maryville High School and University of Tennessee football player Aaron Douglas, left, prepares to block Georgia linebacker Darryl Gamble during the Vols' game against the Bulldogs on Oct. 10, 2009, at Neyland Stadium.
The scholarship was offered before birth.
Considering the bloodlines of the future child, Phillip Fulmer had a strong hunch he couldn't go wrong.
Once Aaron Douglas finally arrived and the former Tennessee coach had 17 years to watch him grow up, he knew he'd been right all along.
"When David and Karla (Douglas) got married I sent them a letter, obviously never having a clue that 17 years after he was born I would be signing their son," Fulmer said Thursday by phone. "Well, maybe not no clue, you did have a Lady Vol and a Vol getting married. But I told them their first-born son would have a scholarship to Tennessee.
"They kept it, and it was really a neat thing all those years later seeing the letter in recruiting Aaron. It was one of those special friendships that you have that come around in coaching and being around good people."
He never actually had the chance to coach Douglas when he developed into a freshman All-American after redshirting during Fulmer's last season, and the seemingly preordained career with the Vols didn't last when yet another coaching transition prompted a change of scenery for Douglas.
But the specifics of a football career that began with piles of accolades at Maryville High School, lots of promise at UT and ultimately ended after spring practice at Alabama faded into the background when Douglas was found dead on a second-story balcony in Florida on Thursday morning. A memorial service is scheduled for tonight, but the focus has already returned to reflections of Douglas away from the game, his good-natured spirit, playfulness and loyalty that had helped turn a difficult journey on the field into a large reserve of teammates and coaches who had a chance to get to know him the way Fulmer had for so long.
"It was almost like an uncle recruiting him because David and I and the Douglas family, we're all close and good friends," Fulmer said. "It's just a wonderful family to be involved with, and it really wasn't necessarily a recruiting process as much as it was just affirmation that he was coming to Tennessee. I just hate the way that it happened for him there. It's terribly disturbing and almost unfair to those group of guys. I hated it.
"Aaron was a good person and a good son and a good grandson, he cared about people and he was polite and all those things that you'd like to think of your own son or grandson. I mean, he was a very polite young man, and with his friends he was just a typical teenager."
Those qualities endeared him to his teammates at UT, Arizona Western College and Alabama regardless of how much time was spent at each spot, and based on the deluge of well wishes and memories that were posted on social networks across the country, it seemed as if he'd been at each of them forever.
In the end, the jerseys he wore or the program he was expected to contribute to in the fall hardly seemed to matter. The big kid inside the uniform, the one Fulmer had the foresight to offer a roster spot to before he was even born, was all that mattered.
"AD was a loving kid, and whatever people thought about him from the outside looking in, if you got to talk to him and got to know him a little bit, he was a loyal friend in the sense that he was there to support you," former UT teammate Nick Reveiz said. "I've known Aaron for a long time, I remember meeting him for the first time at Maryville, and it's a terrible situation.
"In these situations I think there's going to be a lot of questions and confusion, but I think the main thing to take away is to remember the great moments that we had with Aaron. He was a good kid, loving guy, and we're going to miss him."