Sept. 29, 2009
BY DREW EDWARDS
Speed bump or roadblock? Nick Reveiz has heard that question for most of his life.
On Saturday night inside Neyland Stadium, Tennessee's starting middle linebacker heard that question yet again as he sat on the bench with a freshly torn ACL in his right knee.
Reveiz's season was over. That much he couldn't control.
As teammates patted him on the back and offered words of support, his father and mother came down from the stands. There, as Reveiz sat on the bench with tears in his eyes, his father posed the same old question.
"Since he's been a little boy, the one constant I've told him, the only thing we can choose is our reaction to the problems that come in front of us," said Fuad Reveiz, Nick's father and a former Tennessee and NFL placekicker. "That's the only option. I just kept reminding him of that. Is this a roadblock or is it a speed bump?"
The answer came quickly.
`God's got a plan'
After linebackers coach Lance Thompson finished grading film of Saturday's game, he texted Reveiz in the wee hours Sunday morning to let his middle linebacker know that the injury looked like one of those fluke things.
Reveiz didn't make an awkward cut. He didn't slip on a wet field. His foot didn't stick in the turf and wrench his knee.
"It's just one of them things," Thompson told Reveiz. "He texted back and said, `God's got a plan for me. I'll be back bigger and stronger. I'll be ready to go for spring ball.' That's the first thing out of his mouth."
Reveiz's answer wasn't just about words.
The next day, like always, he was in the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center to watch film of Saturday's game and see how he graded out. He even apologized for slowing up on a play when he thought he heard a whistle.
At 6:30 Monday morning, Reveiz was in the weight room, lifting with his teammates.
His season is over, but the Vols have eight more games to play. And he didn't want his teammates working out without him there.
"The way I'm looking at it is nothing changes," said Reveiz, who will have surgery in about two weeks. "The only thing that changes in my routine is I won't be able to participate in practice in a physical sense. But I'll be there mentally. I'll be in the meetings early every single day with all my teammates. Nothing's going to change.
"A lot of times, people think (because) you get hurt, you have more time to rehab or more time off to do other things. That's not going to be my case. I'm going to be at every workout I'm supposed to be at. I'm going to be at every meeting. I'm going to be at every practice. I'm just looking forward to helping out my team."
`Like ripping my guts out'
Some might find it hard to believe, but Reveiz is one of those players Tennessee will have a tough time replacing.
He's not an All-American like safety Eric Berry or a five-star recruit like running back Bryce Brown. Reveiz is a former walk-on who worked his way into a starting spot this season despite the fact that most thought he was too small to play at a school like Tennessee.
Reveiz, though, went from former walk-on to starter to indispensible in a matter of months.
"We would never have guessed this, and no one in this room would ever have guessed this eight months ago when we got here," UT coach Lane Kiffin said during his weekly press conference Tuesday, "but if you gave me three names on our team right now who would have been most valuable to not lose, definitely all of our coaches would have put him in the top three. And some of them would have him, surprisingly, No. 1.
"It's impossible to replace him."
Not only was Reveiz one of the Vols' surest tacklers, he had spent months immersed in Monte Kiffin's defense. He made sure everyone was lined up correctly on the field, and he made presnap adjustments.
Off the field, his teammates voted him a captain, and his work ethic is unmatched.
"When he got hurt, it was like ripping my guts out," Thompson said. "It was like ripping Monte's guts out because he epitomizes everything you want your guys to be about."
Despite the injury, Reveiz is still about supporting his teammates. Just listen to what he had to say about backup middle linebacker Savion Frazier, who will compete with Herman Lathers for the starting job this week.
"I'm so happy for Savion," Reveiz said. "He's been here, this is his third year. He's a true junior. He's been working extremely hard, and he deserves this shot, deserves this chance. I'm confident in him that he's going to do an exceptional job."
`Another mountain to climb'
The drive to campus Monday morning wasn't easy for Reveiz. Neither was practice later that afternoon. Saturday's game against Auburn, that will be brutal.
But it's nothing Reveiz can't handle.
"The Lord's given me courage," Reveiz said. "He's really given me a peace about this. I know this was meant to happen. This is part of my future, and it's just another mountain to climb.
"I'm just looking at it as another obstacle. I've been through a lot, and this is probably the biggest one I've been through this far. I'm just trusting in God, and He's really given me a peace about fighting and coming back strong."
The process won't be short. After surgery, rehab is expected to take 5-7 months.
"I know it's going to be a long, hard road," Reveiz said. "But I've been praying about it a lot. It's been rough the last couple of days. But I spent a lot of time thinking about it. I've cried a lot. But I'm ready."
Thompson has no doubts about that.
"This guy will rehab like nobody's business," Thompson said. "He'll kill the physical therapist. That's the way he is. There's no doubt he'll be back. He'll be back, and he'll be better than he was before just like he told me he would be."
Reveiz is no stranger to hard work. It's why he ran sprints after practice wearing a 30-pound weight vest. It's why he spends more time in the weight room than anyone else on the team.
But it's only one of the reasons he'll be back ready to play.
"His faith is what's going to get him through this," says Fuad Reveiz. "He knows, like all of us know, there's speed bumps that happen to us."
For Reveiz, it's a speed bump. Not a roadblock.