KNOXVILLE — Mychal Rivera didn’t specifically use the word “bitter” to describe his feelings for the Oregon football program.
But the former Duck and current University of Tennessee tight end basically described those specific feelings.
“I’m just real focused,” Rivera said after UT’s Monday practice. “I’m trying to get the victory. That’s first and foremost. I’m just trying to show everybody [at Oregon] what I’m about, and what they missed out on.”
Rivera signed with Oregon out of California’s Birmingham Senior High School in 2008, and he redshirted for the Ducks before leaving shortly after Mike Bellotti stepped down as head coach.
“Out of high school, that was a great program,” Rivera said. “But after Coach Bellotti left, the program just wasn’t a fit for me anymore. It changed a lot, and I just looked [to leave].
“It changed in certain ways. I wasn’t really on the depth chart too much. I was getting overlooked, and I really didn’t feel like I had a shot, so I made the decision for me and my family, and I just left and transferred.”
The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Rivera, who played last season for California’s College of the Canyons, said UT’s game this Saturday was a factor in signing with the Vols.
“Since I had an offer from Tennessee, I looked at the schedule and saw Oregon, and I had to come here,” he said. “I’m not going to lie. It did [influence me]. That wasn’t the sole reason I’m here. But I saw that, and that added a little bit, you could say.
“That’s how life is: Everybody tells you that you can’t do something, and you just have to prove them wrong. And that’s what this game is for me, and that’s how my life is — just proving everybody wrong that doubted me.”
Phil Simms’ son Chris committed to Tennessee as a high school senior before ultimately signing with Texas, but younger son Matt is now the Vols’ starting quarterback.
Matt said his father, an NFL television analyst and former Super Bowl-winning quarterback, quickly decided which UT had a better atmosphere after attending Saturday’s win over UT-Martin.
“He was really excited to sit there in the stands, and he loved the atmosphere of the Volunteer crowd,” Matt said. “He said it was unbelievable. He did say it was better than Texas, so I can’t wait to rub that in to my brother a little bit.”
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