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A family dream for UT punter Trevor Daniel

1145 days ago
Brian Rice | Tennessee Athletics
Photo: Tennessee Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Trevor Daniel dreamed of helping Tennessee win football games.

Growing up in Dickson, just west of Nashville, Daniel spent his fall Saturdays as a child with his grandfather, watching the Volunteers play on television. The images that flashed across the screen served as more than just a way to bond generations. The games gave Daniel a passion for his home state's team and a preview of his future.

"Seeing them on TV and the Power T on the helmets, the orange, it was just something special," Daniel said. "He really liked them, so I really liked them."

He came up with an ambitious plan, as many young kids do, and proudly explained it to his grandfather during one of their Saturday viewing sessions. The plan starts small, but finishes big.

"I told my granddad that I was going to play for the Dickson Dragons, which is the middle school team, Dickson Cougars, which is our high school, then Tennessee, then the Tennessee Titans," Daniel said, recalling the progression.

A visit to Knoxville to see the team and the place that he had viewed so many times on television cemented his dream. So did a meeting with one of his heroes.

"In middle school, I really liked Eric Berry," Daniel said. "I came to some of the games up here and got to meet him, I was really excited."

Years later, it would be Berry watching Daniel on the field when the Vol legend returned to campus for the Western Carolina game and watched the Vols' new punter do what he has done all year: Boom punts whenever his number is called.

Though the first four games of his college career, the redshirt sophomore has a 48.6 yards per punt average, which ranks fifth in the NCAA and second in the SEC. Of his 22 punts, 10 have landed inside 20-yard line and 11 have been of 50-plus yards.

"Trevor Daniel changes field position constantly," quarterback Joshua Dobbs said. "He's booming punts and he's able to put them in the box, as we call it, where the returner doesn't have anywhere to go. It's great to have that weapon."

Daniel had perhaps his most impressive performance in his first true road game at Florida, booming six punts for a 51.3-yard average. His consistency was remarkable, achieving an average that high with his long punt being 56 yards.

When the opportunity to join the program at Tennessee came along, he never considered anywhere else.

"I thought back to being a kid and how much I wanted to be here," he said of his reaction when the Vols first contacted him. "I was really excited."

He spent his first two seasons working alongside players like Michael Palardy and Matt Darr, who had a breakthrough season a year ago and earned the Miami Dolphins' punter job this offseason. The lessons he learned from those players helped him seize the spot, even if the journey there was not always an easy one.

"I didn't know if I could do it," he said of his early impressions. "Going through the summer workouts and some of the harder stuff here, I didn't think it would be possible. But I'm very happy. I focused on what I had to do. Matt Darr left and someone had to step up, that was my shot."

Coaches and teammates now give him just one piece of advice, to "Keep booming it," as he says.

He intends to do that, while living out the dream that was born years ago on a couch in Dixon with his grandfather.

"I think this is where I'm destined to be," Daniel said. "It's still crazy looking back and thinking that I was a little kid that loved watching Tennessee football and now I get to be a part of it."