KNOXVILLE - Tennessee linebacker Nick Reveiz wasn't sure when the red welts and pink discoloration would leave his forehead.
"I got a new helmet," he said at the close of the Vols' 32-29 overtime victory over UAB on Saturday. "The padding's softer up there. With the other helmet, I'd get a little woozy sometimes. This one was supposed to stop that. But there were hard hits out there."
Where UT was concerned, most of those hits came from Reveiz, who finished with eight solo tackles and six assists. His 14 total tackles, including two for lost yardage, were at least five in front of everyone else in orange.
"I kept trying to stay calm because I was getting so angry," he said. "We came out flat. We were missing tackles. Screens were killing us. It was a combination of things."
One thing kept the Vols from losing, a trait almost always associated with the senior Reveiz - heart.
"Nick's just got a ton of heart as a player," said senior tight end Luke Stocker. "There's so much heart in his story, about how he's come back from injury, about how he's gone from walk-on to one of the most important players on this team. But he was just everywhere out there today."
Reveiz said that wasn't only because the Vols were struggling.
"As a senior, you want to be out there every snap," said the Knoxville native. "I get upset when they tell me to take a blow. I don't care if I'm cramping or hurt or what, I want to be out there."
He has wanted to be out there from the first time his parents gave him an orange and white shaker as a toddler. Father Fuad was a UT kicking legend in the 1980s. Nick never wanted for anything more than to run through the "T" as a player.
But he had to walk on to make the roster, had to overcome two serious leg injuries to stay on the field.
"We need Nick," Vols coach Derek Dooley said. "Nick's playing good football out there."
The Vols didn't play good football Saturday as a team. Reveiz was the exception, along with quarterback Matt Simms, who hit 19 of 34 passes for three touchdowns and no interceptions despite being sacked five times.
Yet a win is a win and as Reveiz noted while rubbing his reddened forehead, "If we can line up right, make tackles, know our assignments and compete, I think we'll have a pretty good team."
In other words, if the rest of the team can ever play like Reveiz, the Vols might do OK.
Contact Mark Wiedmer at email@example.com or 423-757-6273.