KNOXVILLE — Curt Maggitt’s last play in a college football game came more than 600 days ago, in the fourth quarter of Tennessee’s four-overtime loss to Missouri at Neyland Stadium in 2012.
He’s never played a snap of football for second-year Volunteers coach Butch Jones and his staff.
Yet if you ask any coach, player or other person in Tennessee’s football program, it’s likely he quickly will point to Maggitt as the heart and soul of the Vols.
“That’s based on Curt’s body of work,” says Tennessee defensive coordinator John Jancek. “He was here, he worked hard, he played and then he got injured. I think the players look at him and see his work ethic and really what he stands for as a young man, and they truly respect it. That’s Curt. He’s earned that right.”
The torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered late in that loss to the Tigers was the latest in a growing list of injuries that have hindered Maggitt and stunted a career that began with so much promise.
He started eight games as a true freshman and tied for third on the team in tackles — his 56 stops were the fourth-most by a Tennessee freshman — to earn Freshman All-SEC honors despite missing a game with a calf injury in 2011.
His flashed his ability in the 2012 opener against North Carolina State in Atlanta when he strip-sacked Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon and forced a safety, but it was only the start of a injury-riddled season. Turf toe slowed him, and a painful shoulder stinger forced him out of games.
The Missouri game was his career in a nutshell: He wreaked havoc on the Tigers before suffering an injury that forced him to miss all of 2013, though he did have a role on Tennessee’s scout team later in the year.
That’s when he developed into the leader he is now for the Vols.
“I think the guys on the team from last year and this year especially, they feel my passion and know that I enjoy playing football,” Maggitt says. “I tell them all the time I do it for my satisfaction, but I play for them as well. I’m not a selfish player. Coach moved me to D-line, and I’m going to give my best at it.
“Any time a guy needs help, whether we’re in the film room or the weight room, I’m going to take my time out and help them because we’re a better team when everyone is getting better. I’m worried about the team more than just myself, I feel like. I guess that’s where they see it.”
To some teammates, Maggitt’s presence is hardly a new development.
“I’ve seen that since we’ve been freshmen,” defensive tackle Jordan Williams says. “Even the older guys when Curt was a freshman would look to Curt for some kind of leadership. Curt was always a vocal guy and always the most unselfish guy I know.”
Steve Stripling, Tennessee’s veteran defensive line coach, called Maggitt an “energy stick” and said the 6-foot-3, 244-pound Floridian text-messages him daily to ask what he needs to work on that particular day.
“It just shows an inner drive,” Stripling added. “He wants to be great. He has leadership skills, he has maturity, he has energy and he wants to be good. Curt wouldn’t care if you put him at offensive center. He would want to be great, and that’s the type of young man he is.
“It was evident last year, that even when he was not playing, he was a leader and he was going to supply the energy.”
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 ...