KNOXVILLE — Marlin Lane believes there's no sense in looking back now.
At one point earlier this offseason, it appeared the tailback's Tennessee career might be done.
Yet with the indefinite suspension that caused him to miss the last week of the Volunteers' spring practices in the rearview mirror, Lane heads into his junior season focused solely on the present.
"If you stare in the past, you're always going to be brought down," he said earlier this month in the only interview he's done during preseason practice. "I'd rather keep going forward. That's going to push me and motivate me for everybody on the coaching staff and the community and the team."
The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Florida native was away from that team for undisclosed disciplinary reasons from mid-April to the start of the summer workout program at the start of June. It was the time apart from his teammates that opened Lane's eyes, and it's the one thing he's most thankful to have back after his return.
While Lane did worry his Vols' career might have reached its end, he spoke to head Butch Jones and running backs coach Robert Gillespie on a daily basis, and he was very appreciative of their support and advice.
"It was very difficult, because the whole team became a family," he said. "Being separate from them is like being alone and not with my family and everything. I just learned to appreciate what I've got.
"I just prayed every day, and God answered my prayers and I'm happy to be back."
Though he's sat out the last few days of practice for precautionary reasons, Lane has performed well this preseason according to most accounts. It's part of the process of earning back the trust of his coaches and teammates that Jones spoke of at the onset of training camp. Lane said he's tried to play "with an attitude" of relentlessness for his team.
"[It's] just showing them that I care for the game," he said. "That's how I feel. Each and every day, meetings, class, anything I do, I do it and hold myself to a high standard to show them that I'm all about ball right now."
Rajion Neal, the other half of the Vols' tailback tandem, has noticed more of a team-first drive from his backfield mate.
"Marlin's hungry," Neal said. "He had ball taken away from him, man, and they truly say you don't know what you have till it's gone. I think he truly realized that in a matter of a second, ball could have been over for him. You could tell he's come out here with a different mindset.
"He's excited to be here, he's working, he's honestly happy to be around the guys and I think that's really what it's all about."
As a sophomore last season, Lane ran 120 times for 658 yards, registered 100-yard rushing games against Troy and Vanderbilt and led Tennessee in rushing in six games. He's caught 46 passes in first two seasons, and the Vols likely will use his pass-catching ability with the screen game a big part of offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian's offense. Tennessee's offense needs anybody with proven playmaking ability, and Lane has shown he can do that.
He's simply glad to have a second chance at showing more of it.
"I live my life like it's fourth-and-inches every day," he said. "It can be taken from me any second, and I just go out there and give it my all. Every day I wake up, I don't feel like getting up, but I motivate myself because I see everybody else getting up. They're going through the same thing I'm going through out here, and we're just working to get better.
"Without football, something that I love, it hurts, but I just learned to move forward."
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 ...