KNOXVILLE — Ben Martin is in his fifth year on the football team at the University of Tennessee.
The defensive end has been injured so much, though, that he finished just his second full practice for second-year coach Derek Dooley on Tuesday afternoon.
"He was able to make it through practice one, which is the first thing he's done since I've been here in 18 months," Dooley said after the first preseason-camp practice. "I consider that tremendous progress, and I say that not really in jest. I'm serious. There's a lot of anxiety, you're pushing around, and I'm sure he was a little nervous. That was our goal today -- get to practice two -- and we accomplished it with him."
Martin missed all of spring practice in 2010 with a knee injury, ruptured one Achilles' tendon on the second day of camp last August and tore the Achilles' tendon in his other foot in January. The two serious injuries were tough on the former No. 1 prospect from the state of Ohio, but ultimately he decided to continue his football career.
"It's a big emotional blow because it's just a lot to deal with going through it a second time," he said, "but I just thought it about it this way: My family was there for me for the first [injury]. When it came down to it, I love the game too much to just let it go."
How much Martin can give the Volunteers, though, is difficult to predict. The coaching staff is focused on taking it easy with him early on in trying to keep him healthy.
"I just expect to play the best of my ability," Martin said, "and try to contribute any way I can to help this team win."
Senior linebacker Austin Johnson apologized for his July 24 arrest for public intoxication and disorderly conduct. According to a Knoxville Police Department arrest report, Johnson allegedly attempted to fight another man and might have been hitting parked cars behind an off-campus bar.
"I should've never put myself in that situation," Johnson said. "I should've never been out that late. I'm extremely embarrassed. I embarrassed my team, I embarrassed the fans, I embarrassed my family and I embarrassed my coaches. I've learned from my mistakes. I'm a senior, I'm a leader on this team, and that never should've happened. I plan to move forward and become a better person from this."
Johnson, who's listed on the depth chart as the starter at weakside linebacker, has been academic all-conference each of his three years at UT. Dooley said Monday that Johnson's punishment would be handled internally.
"I was extremely worried and sick to my stomach -- couldn't sleep at night," Johnson said. "My teammates have been behind me 100 percent and they've shown me a lot of support. That's meant the world to me."
UT defensive back Prentiss Waggner said Monday that safety Janzen Jackson could be away from football for five years and physically not miss a beat. Tuesday was Jackson's first practice back since his February withdrawal from school for personal reasons, and the talented junior proved his secondary mate's words to be true.
"He's fine, which just shows you the kind of athlete he is," Dooley said. "It doesn't take a guy like that long to get back in condition. The next step is really going to be mastering the defense, seeing how we can take every ounce of his talents and impact the game -- without killing the guy. That's what we're trying to do."
Jackson began working out with teammates again in early July, and his energy has been contagious both on the field and in meetings.
"It's like a glow out there," Dooley said. "He's got a smile on his face [because] this is what Janzen loves. I'm happy that he's with our team, not because it makes our team better, but you can just see his soul brighten up out there. His energy level, you know, it rubs off on people. He's first in everything, he's got good enthusiasm, he's active and loves competing; he's everything you look for in a competitor on the field."
Dooley had no new information on freshman Devrin Young's broken collarbone, which could sideline the tailback and return specialist for all of camp.
"He hurt his shoulder last week. We X-rayed it -- it didn't show anything -- he was sore, so I think it's something that happened before yesterday," Dooley said. "It's too bad, but we've got to put in the next guy. I know he's out for camp, so we'll re-evaluate it when he gets out."
Correspondent Matt Dixon contributed to this report.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...
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