A familiar face will resurface at North Alabama this season.
Brandon Warren — the former Alcoa High School star, former Freshman All-American at Florida State and former Tennessee tight end — will play for the Division II program.
The 24-year-old has one remaining season of eligibility and is listed on the Lions' roster as a 6-foot-2, 230-pound senior tight end. According to North Alabama assistant athletic director for communications Jeff Hodges, Warren attended courses at UT after his dismissal from the football team in 2009 and is now enrolled and eligible to play at North Alabama.
It's been a bizarre, pothole-filled road to Florence, Ala.
After choosing Florida State over UT as a high school senior in 2006, Warren left Tallahassee during a freshman year that saw him catch 28 passes for 301 yards.
Warren returned home to be closer to his mother, who had dealt with complications since having a cancerous kidney removed in 2005.
Tennessee filed a hardship waiver on Warren's behalf with the NCAA while he spent 2007 at Pellissippi State Community College addressing academic issues.
In August of 2008, the NCAA and SEC ruled him eligible to play for the Vols and coach Phillip Fulmer. It might have been the highlight of his UT career.
A little more than a year later, on Oct. 3, 2009, Warren threw down his helmet and openly confronted receivers coach Frank Wilson during a loss to Auburn. Two days later, coach Lane Kiffin, hired to replace Fulmer, dismissed him from the team. He called the conclusion of Warren's UT career, "Very unfortunate."
Warren and Kiffin clashed numerous times prior to the Auburn game.
Hodges added that Warren had been trying to become eligible since 2009, but "some glitches" kept him from gaining clearance.
In 17 games at UT, Warren caught 17 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns.
Warren led Alcoa to back-to-back state championships and was named 2005 Class 2A Mr. Football. When National Signing Day rolled around in 2006, he was a consensus top-
50 prospect and ranked as the No. 1 defensive end prospect in the nation by Rivals.com and the country's top tight end prospect according to Scouts, Inc.
In March of 2010, Warren told the News Sentinel he approached new UT coach Derek Dooley about rejoining Vols, but was turned away.
"He came in and he did want back," Dooley said in 2010. "We didn't let him back because he has a record of a lot of team violations that were so great it would be unfair to let him back. It would be unfair to the rest of the team."
North Alabama, under new coach Bobby Wallace, kicks off its season at Miles College in Birmingham on Sunday.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/BFQuinn