Seniors Don’t Have Tenure

Q: Did you feel like you were owed more by the program since you waited your turn for four years?

A: That was my mindset, yeah.

That was a portion of an interview between GoVolsXtra’s Dave Hooker and Tennessee ex-QB Nick Stephens following the news from earlier on Thursday that Vol senior QB Nick Stephens has decided to leave Tennessee.

The first scrimmage of the spring on April 3 did Nick in. Mr. Stephens could read the writing on the wall after Coach Dooley announced that Junior college transfer Matt Simms and January enrollee Tyler Bray were given nudges up the depth chart before Tuesday’s practice, and rising senior Nick Stephens was bumped down from the starters to the second string.

I feel bad for Nick Stephens.

Nick Stephens just couldn't see himself holding this pose for yet another season. Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess.

After graduating High School in Flower Mound, Texas where he was an All-District and second-team All-Region QB, Nick came to Tennessee with the reputation of a gunslinger – he had a canon for an arm. He was redshirted his first year in Knoxville and was a squad member during his 2007 freshman season. During the tumultuous 2008 season, Stephens became the elixir to the Jonathan Crompton saga of non-productive QB play, starting 6 consecutive games during that awful season. He saw fire on the front line against big-time opponents Georgia and Alabama.

But, he became little more than a stopgap to the howls of the VolNation screaming for the head of Cromption. For when Lane Kiffin came to town for Nick’s junior season, Stephens lived only within the practice field and the sidelines in Neyland Stadium. It was clear to Kiffin and Company that no matter how unreliable Crompton was in games (before Georgia 2009), Stephens was too much of a gamble for a very young head coach in his first stint as a big-time college coach.

Then came spring practice of 2010. The QB job was Nick Stephens’ job – finally, the redhead from Texas would become a starting QB for an entire season – his senior season. But a poor showing in the first full scrimmage led the new coaching staff to relegate Stephens to the second squad and open the door for Matt Simms to lead the Vols in 2010.

Nick saw the inevitability of another season spent with arms folded, eavesdropping on conversations during timeouts between coach and QB.

It’s survival of the fittest – in business, sport, and life. Tenure only exists in schools and universities for faculty, not for football players.

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