KNOXVILLE -- Shane Reveiz could be put in a tough spot if Tennessee All-Southeastern weakside linebacker Rico McCoy's knee forces him out of Saturday's game against Vanderbilt.
Reveiz has conquered much tougher tasks, though.
Less than two years ago, the walk-on legacy from Knoxville was told he'd never play football again, and that his life was in danger.
An annual echocardiogram given to all UT student-athletes uncovered a marble-sized growth on Reveiz's heart.
"You're just like, 'Whoa,'" Reveiz said of his initial reaction that day. "When you really love something and you're told you can't do it any more, it's heartbreaking."
But not in the literal sense. Not in Reveiz's case.
A friend of Reveiz's father -- former UT All-American and NFL kicker Fuad Reveiz -- recommended a specialist in Atlanta who could remove the growth without cutting through the sternum, thus possibly sparing his football career.
The less invasive procedure worked, and Shane Reveiz eventually rejoined the team to practice alongside older brother and fellow linebacker Nick Reveiz.
"I've had a different perspective in my mind since that day," Shane Reveiz said. "Everything happens for a reason, and everything that's happened to me, I've learned from it. I'm glad for everything I've gone through. It's really helped me appreciate just being able to play the game. I could not be playing today -- or worse -- because of my heart situation.
"Life is a blessing, and I won't ever forget that now."
Playing time wasn't supposed to be a blessing this season, though. Shane Reveiz started preseason camp at No. 3 strongside linebacker. The 5-foot-10, 210-pound sophomore moved to the weakside after his brother -- the starting middle linebacker -- tore his ACL against Ohio. He moved back to the strongside weeks later, when freshman Greg King's minor injury caused another significant depth chart shuffle. He eventually shifted back to the weakside, where he's at least temporarily settled in as McCoy's primary backup.
Backing-up McCoy is normally a boring job. The fifth-year senior has started 37 consecutive games and appeared in 48, and he's played more snaps than anyone on the current roster.
McCoy has been battling a knee injury in recent weeks, though, and he struggled late in Saturday's 42-17 loss at Ole Miss. McCoy refused to let trainers examine the knee during the game, saying afterward that he knew they'd remove him from the lineup. But his uncharacteristically poor performance stood out like a black eye during postgame reviews of the video, leaving his availability for Vanderbilt to coaches and medical staff.
"It's all right; day to day," McCoy said Wednesday afternoon. "It's an injury I've had before, and I tweaked it during the Ole Miss game."
McCoy agreed with UT coach Lane Kiffin's suggestion that he probably shouldn't have stayed on the field, especially as the game got out of hand in the fourth quarter.
"It's about being strong and focused mentally," McCoy said of his stubbornness. "It's an attitude I've had all my life. You try not to let stuff hold you back. Like Coach Kiffin said, I probably shouldn't have been out there, but I wasn't one to just sit on the sideline unless someone pulled me off the field or dragged me off the field. I care about my team and the outcome of the game, and I just wanted to be out there every snap.
"There was already a bunch of young guys out there playing, and I didn't want to leave those guys out there on their own. That was part of my motivation, as well, to stay out there and give those guys a little leadership and guidance ... and keep the guys heads in the game."
McCoy said it would take "a whole, a whole lot" to keep him off the field on Senior Day.
"But if it's necessary, I'll watch the guys and cheer them on," McCoy added. "If I can roll, I'll roll. If not, I'll cheer those guys on.
"I've had what, like 37 starts in my career? This (injury) just came at a bad time. But if it goes that way, it goes that way."
Shane Reveiz practiced with the starters Wednesday while McCoy watched from the sideline, and Reveiz said he'll be ready against the Commodores.
"Coach Kiffin always preaches to us that the second string has to be ready," he said. "Something happens all the time, like with my brother or Savion (Frazier) or whoever. Anything can happen. I'm always on the sideline standing next to the coaches and staying ready if my name is called.
"If my name is called Saturday, I'm going to go out there and give it my best. I feel ready and comfortable, and when I get a chance, I'm going to try to capitalize."
That would certainly ease Kiffin's mind.
"He might have to really step it up," Kiffin said of Reveiz. "He might have to play a bunch of snaps for us."
Other contacts for Wes Rucker are www.twitter.com/wesrucker and www.facebook.com/tfpvolsbeat.