Blount Press Row

Kicking and Screaming

Brodus ecstatic at being named Tennessee starter

By Tate Russell
Assistant Editor
Blount Press Row

Tennessee junior Derrick Brodus warms up before a game last season. Photos by Jolanda Jansma

The wild ride that has been Derrick Brodus’ football career took another surprising turn Monday morning when the former Alcoa Tornado was named the starting place-kicker for the University of Tennessee.

“Wow! It’s just been crazy, going from last year getting my first start coming off the couch like I did,” Brodus said. “Then last week I go in in the fourth quarter, not warmed up or expecting to get in, and then hitting a field goal and extra point. I was surprised I even went in the game then to be honest.”

The Vols will be facing Southeastern Conference rival Florida in a matchup of two Top 25 teams on Saturday that will be featured on ESPN’s “College Gameday.”

Kickoff at Neyland Stadium is 6 p.m.

The game has been sold out and will assuredly be the biggest stage Brodus has ever played on, but he remains calm about it.

“I think I’ve handled it pretty well, it just my job,” he said. “It’s what I do: I kick.”

Brodus, a junior, walked on at Tennessee after spending two seasons away from the game and made his Volunteer debut last fall against Middle Tennessee State. He was awakened from a nap on his apartment couch by a call from the coaching staff, and he scrambled to the stadium with less than an hour before kickoff.

He hit three PAT’s and a 21-yard field goal against the Blue Raiders.

Unlike last year's orange and white game, Brodus won't handle kickoffs on Saturday.

In the spring, Brodus matched incumbent Michael Palardy kick for kick and went into the summer as a co-starter at place kicker. Brodus went into fall camp behind Palardy, but,  after the junior missed two extra points and a field goal through two games, Tennessee coach Derek Dooley was looking for more consistency.

“Derrick earned the right to be out there,” Dooley said in his Monday afternoon press conference. “It’s really no different than all the other position. It’s performance-based and it’s my responsibility as a coach. If I feel like another guy is more deserving and gives us a better chance to get through the game, then that’s what we’re going to do”

Last week against Georgia State, the 5-foot-11, 188-pound Brodus connected on a 25-yard field goal and an extra point in a 51-13 win. The performance was good enough for Dooley, and he announced Brodus was going to be taking over the place kicking duties this week.

Palardy will continue to handle kickoff duties.

“I was really kind of shocked when I found out because Mike has done really good job in the summer and training camp, but it’s unfortunate he missed the field goal and that PAT last week,” Brodus said, “ but I was happy because that’s what everybody wants. They want that starting job.”

The biggest concern about Palardy has been the low trajectory of his kicks, making them easier to block. Dooley likes what he sees in Brodus’ launch angle.

“He has made every kick every time he has been out there,” Dooley said. “He kicks it high and he has a nice calm about him.”

The first thing Brodus did when he received the news was call his mother, Doris, in Hawaii at 6 a.m. local time, but it was a wakeup call she very much enjoyed, he said. Brodus gives his parents much of the credit for his return to the gridiron after giving up the sport midway through his junior year of high school when forced to choose between football and his first love, soccer.

The Vols are expecting a full house on Saturday.

“After I stopped playing at Alcoa, I didn’t think I would ever play again,” he said. “I thought I would stick with soccer. Honestly, the only reason I tried out for football here was because of all the time and money my parents put in to me playing soccer. I didn’t think it was fair to them that I didn’t play anything in college and I did have success playing football in high school.”

With the new role comes a new number for Brodus, who will wear No. 42 this week instead of his customary 26.

“A lot of people have been asking me about that, and, honestly, I really didn’t even know,” he said. “People have been texting me, asking why I changed my number, and I hadn’t even heard about it. But Geraldo Orta wears number 26 and he plays special teams and we can’t be on the field at the same time with the same number. So I had to change.”

 

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