Aug. 24, 2001
One of the great things for a head coach, let's just call him Phillip Fulmer, for example, is to be able to pencil in the starters in the offensive line and not have to think about it for the rest of the season. When you look at the left guard position, you see the name "Fred Weary" and you almost automatically feel better.
That's because when the big guy from Montgomery, Ala., is operating at full strength, he's about as dominating a lineman as you could want. He's the type player who comes to play every down in the trenches, where, particularly in the Southeastern Conference, things can get pretty tough. You have to step up and be a man.
But Weary is not intimidated. Not at all. He combines excellent size, strength and footwork with the desire to beat the man in front of him on every down. That's why newspaper stories have been entitled "Foes Should Be Wary of Weary' or "Beware, It's Weary."
"Fred's presence just makes an incredible impact, just from an attitude and leadership standpoint. He's an example setter."
Not only that, he's one of the most respected players on the team, as witnessed by his selection as one of the 2001 team captains, joining defensive back Andre Lott, fullback Will Bartholomew, defensive tackle and Outland Trophy winner John Henderson and defensive end Will Overstreet. Fulmer later noted that, "If I were choosing the captains myself, I would have picked these same five players."
"Fred had a great spring and really came on for us as a technician," offensive guards/centers coach Mike Barry says.
Strong words, indeed, but Barry, who's coached some great college linemen in his time, knows whereof he speaks.
Weary has played in 24 games as a Vol, with 14 starts, 12 and guard and two at center, and 10 games as a defensive tackle in 1998, but hasn't been able to shake the injury bug. He went down early in the 2000 Florida game and never returned, but seems to be hale and hearty as the 2001 season approaches, starting with the Sept. 1 game against Syracuse. Fulmer said as much in the preseason.
"Fred's presence just makes an incredible impact, just from an attitude and leadership standpoint," the Vol head coach says. "He's an example setter.
"He calls on fellow linemen and expects them to perform. In the weight room and off the field, Fred Weary is just everything you could ask a youngster to be."
His loss in the Florida game took its toll in terms of talent, veteran leadership and experience, but he brings those qualities to the 2001 team in abundance.
Despite his injury keeping him off the field, his work ethic was such that he still managed to win the "Lifter of the Year" Award despite his bum ankle. That says volumes about what he brings to the team this season. Not only that, he's established a solid work ethic in the classroom where he's scheduled to graduate this December with a degree in economics.
He's also proven his worth in the community. "The Vestal kids specifically asked for Fred Weary," says Chet Nichols of the Greater Knoxville Boys and Girls Club, Inc., referring to a summer reading program sponsored by Anderson News. Weary had been a mainstay of the South Knoxville program, being a part of the youngsters' summer every year since 1998.
It's an experience that made a significant impression on him. When you saw Weary surrounded by the Vestal youngsters, it had to make you feel good about what it meant to them... and to him.
"I told Coach Sanders I wanted to work with the Boys Clubs," he said. "I love working with the kids. This is what I did back home in Montgomery. It means giving back to the community and it's an opportunity for those who might not ever get to see a UT game to come and meet the players and see the facilities. You never know how much it means to them."
He's a big guy with a big heart, one who has earned the respect of everybody's he met. He's looking forward to a banner senior season. His position coach thinks Fred's ready.
"He is the leader of our offensive line and the kids respond to him on the field, off the field and in the weight room," Barry said. "If he stays healthy, he has the ability to be one of the best linemen Tennessee has ever had."
He's ready to step up and join the pantheon of great Vol offensive linemen. It's not inconceivable that you could hear his name mentioned with the likes of Bob Suffridge and Ed Molinski, John Michels, Bob Johnson and John Boynton, Chip Kell, Mickey Marvin, Tim Irwin, Bill Mayo, Harry Galbreath, Eric Still, Charles McRae and Antone Davis, Bubba Miller and Cosey Coleman, to name just a few.
Right now, he wants to be the best Fred Weary he can be. The rest will take care of itself. If he does, you can perhaps make room for another Jacobs Trophy in the Neyland-Thompson Center. Watch No. 70 carefully this season. He's the leader of the line and a leader on the offensive unit.