Former UT defensive lineman Mo Couch explains family need for taking money

Former UT defensive lineman Mo Couch explains family need for taking money

December 3rd, 2013 by Patrick Brown in Sports - College

Maurice Couch

Photo by Alex Washburn/Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE -- Mo Couch broke his silence and told his story Monday.

Two days after Tennessee's season finale, the former Volunteers defensive lineman publicly explained why he took money last year from a person acting as an intermediary between NFL agents and financial advisers.

Following the release of a Yahoo! Sports report the week before Tennessee's trip to Oregon in mid-September implicated Couch's acceptance of impermissible extra benefits, he was indefinitely suspended while his eligibility remained unresolved. In November, Couch was ruled permanently ineligible for the final four games of his career.

"I'm going to take full responsibility for what I did, and I don't have any regrets at all," Couch told Tennessee Sports Radio.

Unlike many of his teammates, Couch is married, and he and his wife have a young daughter, Ahmya. They were struggling so much financially, he said, that his wife, Stephanie, considered moving back to her native Kansas for more support and stability.

The Yahoo! report said Couch, an Orlando-area native, had four payments totaling $1,350 wired to him by former Alabama defensive end Luther Davis and provided the Western Union transaction receipts.

"I'm not a traditional student-athlete," Couch said. "I'm married, I have a child, so the stuff they give us, if I was just like a normal student-athlete, I believe it can help to a certain extent, but when you have a young one and your wife, I mean, it's more you have to bring to the table.

"I was at a point where I going to lose my family. I know I won't be able to focus without my family, knowing that they're taken care of. I used all my resources possible. I couldn't get any help. As a father, I had to what I had to to take care of my family."

Four former SEC players -- Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray, Mississippi State receiver Chad Bumphis and Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox -- also were implicated in the Yahoo! report, but Couch was the only active college player.

He said watching his team play without him was difficult and his wait for a response from the NCAA, which he felt was "hiding" from him, was perhaps the most frustrating part of his suspension.

"You have a lot of guys from all different backgrounds, especially if they grow up not having anything," Couch said during the half-hour interview. "Then you've got this guy pop up in your face, 'Hey, you're a great athlete and all this, I'm going to give you $10,000.' From having nothing and seeing that kind of money, of course you're going to take it.

"It happens all the time. A lot of guys still do it, and it's never going to stop. It's just a part of it."

The 6-foot-2, 304-pound Couch, who signed with Tennessee out of Garden City Community College in Kansas in 2011, finished his Vols career with 79 tackles, 12 stops for loss and 3.5 sacks in 26 games. He'll graduate this month with a degree in sociology.

"To be honest," he said, "I didn't feel like I was doing nothing wrong."

Fulton to Shrine Game

Tennessee right guard Zach Fulton now turns his attention to the NFL. He accepted Monday an invitation to play in the East-West Shrine Game.

One of a few showcase events for draft hopefuls, the Shrine Game is scheduled for Jan. 18 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. The NFL Network will carry the game, which kicks off at 4 p.m.

Fulton started 40 games in his career at Tennessee and might have been the Vols' best offensive lineman this season. The 6-5, 323-pounder signed with Tennessee in 2010 out of Illinois as a three-star prospect. Though he likely won't be the first Vols offensive lineman taken, Fulton could have a long NFL career if he stays healthy.

Booth reopens process

Receiver Dominique Booth, who committed to Tennessee in June, reopened his recruitment Sunday. The 6-0, 205-pounder out of Pike High School in Indianapolis, a four-star prospect according to Rivals.com, originally was slated to enroll in January, but the Vols can bring in only 14 early enrollees to stay under the 85-scholarship limit.

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com.