December 24, 1998
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Deon Grant has what some might call a death wish.
The free safety for No. 1 Tennessee would like to switch to cornerback for a
chance to defend Florida State’s Peter Warrick in the Fiesta Bowl.
“I talk to the coaches all the time about at least giving me a chance on
him,” Grant said. “But I doubt I do. The only thing I will be doing is coming
in for run support or getting over the top for the pass.”
“I’m out there, but as far as going man-on-man, I won’t get a chance like
Warrick is a first-team All-American who scored 11 touchdowns and averaged
20 yards a catch for the second-ranked Seminoles, who play Tennessee Jan. 4 in
the Fiesta Bowl for the national championship.
But the 6-foot-3 Grant is one of the Volunteers’ most confident players. The
sophomore is quick and very physical, and he has 62 tackles and five
interceptions this season for the Vols (12-0).
“I wouldn’t say he’s cocky, but you do have to have a confident attitude in
the secondary,” cornerback Steve Johnson said.
“We’re out there on an island, and it’s nice to know that if you slip or if
somebody gets past you, then you can see that No. 7 float across the sky to
intercept the ball or knock the ball down.”
Defensive coordinator John Chavis has been impressed with Grant from the
first play he made as a freshman, forcing former UCLA tailback Skip Hicks to
lose the ball. Chavis calls Grant a “big-time quarterback” in the Vols’
secondary whose speed and quick adjustments have kept them out of bad
“He is so dang smart, and he understands what we want to do on defense so
well,” Chavis told The Tennessean.
The only problem with Grant’s skills on defense is that opponents try to
avoid him as much as possible. That leaves him even hungrier, looking to back
up his teammates.
But if the coaches insist on keeping him at his free safety position, he can
“Peter Warrick is a great receiver,” Grant said. “But we have a lot of
great athletes on defense, too. We are just going to play him like we have
played everybody else.”