KNOXVILLE — Marlin Lane had been a Clemson Tiger for 19 months.
When the star running back committed to the Tigers roughly a month after finishing his sophomore year at Mainland High School in Daytona Beach, Fla., he probably didn't envision his future in a different shade of orange.
All that changed in a weekend trip to the University of Tennessee.
"I feel like that's the perfect spot for me," said the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Lane, who officially signed Wednesday morning with the Volunteers. "They're a young team that's going to be a great team. I enjoyed being up there, and I liked the coaches and the environment."
But getting to that weekend wasn't uneventful for Lane. His stock soared during his outstanding junior season, when he rushed for 10 touchdowns and more than 1,000 yards and carried his Mainland team into the playoffs in Class 6A, Florida's largest.
On the second play of a first-round playoff game against Jacksonville Sandalwood, Lane's left knee buckled beneath him as he made a cut. The diagnosis: a ruptured ACL that would require surgery and keep him out six to eight months.
"It just gave out on me," Lane said. "It was my junior year and I felt that I still had time enough to work on it and get back and play on it and be ready for the next level."
Lane went through intense rehab the following summer, working out three times a day during the week and two hours on Saturdays. He was supposed to miss his entire senior season, but he returned four games in and finished the season with more than 800 yards despite playing mostly in the slot receiver position, erasing any doubts of any long-term effects from his injury.
"They need to come watch me play and look at a game instead of just going off my injury," he said. "I was supposed to miss the whole season, but I ended up coming back early. That knee didn't affect me at all."
Lane's future seemed so set with Clemson that he got a small tiger paw next to a train bursting through a brick wall tattooed on his arm. But the Tigers shook things up.
"[Clemson] said if I took another visit, they were going to pull my scholarship," Lane said. "When I first committed, they said I could take all my five [official] visits. On my way up to Knoxville, I got a call saying they had pulled my scholarship for [my] arrest."
Lane was arrested on Dec. 23 for being in a car with marijuana.
"It was a false arrest," Lane said. "I'm still going to court for it so they can drop the charges, 'cause there was nothing I could do about it. I was just in the car at the wrong time.
"[Clemson] tried to put it out that they took [my scholarship] for the drug charges. They already knew when I got drug-tested after I got out of jail that they could see that I haven't touched marijuana or anything. I'm clean, and I've always been clean.
"I was upset, but at the same time I figured if they pulled my scholarship off that, then they didn't trust me and they're not a man of their word."
Lane said he got the tattoo altered last weekend. Even then, he still had to deal with news of his commitment to UT leaking before a planned televised announcement on signing day.
"I was trying to keep it silent until signing day, but one of my trainers called in and announced for it to be public and I didn't know," he said. "I kept denying it as much as I could.
"I was mad about it because I just didn't want it out right then. I wanted to wait, but it's nothing, I'm good now. Everybody was going to know sooner or later."
Lane expects to make a major impact as a true freshman, whether it's running the ball, catching it out of the backfield or returning punts or kickoffs. But no matter how Lane became a Vol, he's glad to be one.
"I've moved on," he said, "to a better place, I feel like."
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 ...