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November 21, 2005

Making his grandfather proud

BIRMINGHAM, Mich. - Darris Sawtelle has always dreamed of living up to his grandfather. But when your grandfather is Darris McCord, who was a captain for the Tennessee Volunteers and a member of the Detroit Lions' Fearsome Foursome, it's almost impossible to do. But the thought of making his grandfather proud is something that drives Sawtelle every day.

"There is pressure because I don't want to fail him," Sawtelle, a 6-foot-5, 285-pound junior offensive tackle, said. "A great man like that, you don't want to disappoint him. He's never put the pressure on me to play football, even though he could have. He never told me that I had to do it.

"He always told me I can do whatever I want to do. His encouragement and me wanting to make him proud makes me work harder and harder every day."

The end result is one of the top junior offensive linemen in the Midwest.

Sawtelle already has racked up a scholarship offer from Toledo. Other teams like Auburn, Boston College, Michigan, Ohio State, Purdue, Tennessee and countless others are already sending regular mailings. Sawtelle has the tools to be a special player on the next level his coach said.

"He's awfully good," legendary Brother Rice coach Al Fracassa. "He's got the size already of a college lineman, and he's only going to get bigger, stronger and even better. Football is in his blood with his grandfather and he's go three uncles that played college football, so he knows what it takes to be a success."

Sawtelle knows he was born into football royalty. That happens when you grandfather played for 13 years in the NFL, you've had three uncles play football on the next level and a father that was a rugby player back in his native Australia.

He also knows he was born to be an offensive lineman.

"I've been big all my life," he said. "I can't not remember being big. I was born at 13 pounds. My mom's not forgiven me for that yet. She reminds me about that all the time. I tell her I'm going to pay her back by getting a college scholarship."

Sawtelle has helped Brother Rice reach Friday's Division 2 state championship game against Hudsonville with his solid play.

"I think first off I'm aggressive," he said. "Off the field, I'm a friend to everybody on my team. On the field, it's another story. I don't have any friends on the field, especially the guy with another color jersey on.

"I feel I'm smart and know what's going on, especially in an offensive like this where we run a lot of zone run. We have great coaches here, and it's like learning from the best. That coaching will prepare me for the next level."

Speaking of the next level, Sawtelle said he would be honored to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and attend school at Tennessee. The Volunteers have yet to offer him, but it's really clear the Vols are interested early on.

"I have talked to coach Fulmer," Sawtelle said. "I like him a lot. Before I met him, I watched him on television and he was so intense it kind of scared me. But when you meet him, he's such a great guy. I'll go anywhere I can to play football, but I would love to go there and make my grandfather proud."

Here's betting he already is.

Sawtelle is a humble kid that has been raised the right way. With a frame like his and the desire to be the best, he will be one of the most heavily recruited players in Michigan next season. Who knows, maybe someday he'll have a grandson dreaming of what it's like to follow in his footsteps.


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