For Da'Rick Rogers, it's not only been special to notch 1,000 receiving yards in his sophomore season, but it's how he's arrived at this point with one game remaining in the regular season.
Following Saturday's 10-catch, 116-yard, two-touchdown performance against Vanderbilt, Rogers is in good position to inch closer to, tie or surpass a number of program records Saturday (TV: WVLT, 12:21 p.m.) at Kentucky.
He'll have his top quarterback, Tyler Bray, throwing passes his way against the Wildcats, but it was his perseverance through the tough times that came with Matt Simms and Justin Worley holding down the position during Bray's absence that make his cumulative totals all the more rewarding.
"With the struggles we've had," Rogers said, "it looks pretty good on paper."
The closest Rogers is to claiming a program record all to himself is in total receptions. At an SEC-best 65, which currently ranks sixth in UT history, he's 11 away from tying Marcus Nash, who set the record in 1997 with Peyton Manning hurling passes in his direction. Rogers could very well break the record Saturday, but a win over Kentucky would secure a second chance to do so in a bowl game.
"I just say, 'Hey coach, you've got to make sure I get 11 this week so I get to the top,' " Rogers said.
With 1,002 yards on the season, which is tied with Arkansas' Jarius Wright as the most in the SEC, Rogers is 296 yards away from tying Robert Meacham's mark of 1,298 set in 2006. He'd need just 168 yards to tie Nash for the second-highest total in a single season.
Rogers' nine touchdowns are tied for seventh-most in program history, and he'll need four more to tie Nash's single-season record of 13. One more 100-yard game would tie him with Nash and Joey Kent (1996) for the most in a single season with seven.
"That would be an honor, when you look back and see all the receivers that have through here," Rogers said. "This is Wide Receiver U, and just being able to put in a group with those names is crazy."
Rogers has picked up the bulk of his yards and catches without his best friend and teammate, Justin Hunter, who went out for the season with a knee injury early in the third game, opening up space and freeing him from double teams. It hasn't always been easy, as was displayed at times against Alabama (two catches, 32 yards) and South Carolina (four, 35), but Rogers said it's forced him to work harder to improve.
There hasn't been much time to worry about who's throwing him the ball.
"It made me open my game and work on a lot of things that I wasn't as good at before," Rogers said. "I really had to do a lot of things I wasn't doing before, and that really helped me as a player."
Bray Watch: After his second interception Saturday, Bray tossed away the glove he was wearing on his throwing hand and played the rest of the game in traditional, bare-handed fashion.
Asked after Tuesday's practice whether he'd give the handwear another shot Saturday, Bray shook his head.
"It was done after Saturday," he said.
Bray admitted that his thumb, which he broke last month against Georgia, was sore Sunday, but that was what he anticipated. He doesn't anticipate the lingering pain to be problematic when he makes his second consecutive start.
"I mean, it's always going to hurt," Bray said. "But it's something you just have to fight through and just go out there and try to contribute to the team."
Coach Derek Dooley said Bray was still rusty Tuesday and reiterated what he stressed all throughout last week.
Even though Bray started and finished UT's 27-21 win over Vanderbilt, the rehabilitation process is far from over.
"One week doesn't get that thumb back to where he was," Dooley said. "He'll get to where he is when he's 100 percent. We have to keep managing it and keep warming it up properly, stretching it and rehabbing it.
"Today he looked like about what he looked like in the game. Not a lot happened over the weekend."
Safety Dance: Injured safeties Brian Randolph (concussion) and Prentiss Waggner (shoulder) wore green, non-contact jerseys during the morning practice. Both players remain probable for Saturday.
"I don't think there's a guy that's totally 100-percent healthy out here," Waggner said. "You got all kind of guys that got nagging injuries, so this is pretty much a nagging injury."
Waggner said Randolph was in good spirits at practice. His teammates made sure of it by giving him a hard time about how he looked shortly after making the hit Saturday that left him with a mild concussion.
"When he came to the sideline, he asked how he hit (Alabama running back) Trent Richardson," Waggner said. "Izauea Lanier told him 'Hey dog, we're not even playing Alabama this week.' "