The backpack is loaded and hand is wrapped; Nathan Peterman has almost everything he needs for his life outside of Tennessee football.
Since an injury to the thumb on his right, throwing hand suffered in the Vols' 31-17 loss Sept. 21 at Florida, Peterman has later added something to his list of necessities: a rubber squeeze ball.
"I do, just because I think it helps," Peterman said of utilizing different methods to improve his grip. "And (the Vols' medical staff) kind of told me to do that. Just day by day getting better every day."
Though the redshirt freshman from Fruit Cove, Fla., only recently regained the ability to naturally grip and throw a football, Peterman maintained his presence around the team during his rehabilitation process. Sunday meetings to review film after a game? Check. Position meetings with the other quarterbacks to pore over the game plan? Check. Learning a new method of handwriting? Check.
"He's handled it the way you'd expect Nate Peterman to handle it. It was an opportunity to improve. He was in every meeting," first-year UT coach Butch Jones, who originally recruited Peterman while Jones was head coach at Cincinnati, said. "Teaching himself to write with the other hand, having somebody else take notes for him. He was a student of the game. So I think his growth as a quarterback was developed, even in that period of time where he wasn't practicing because he was taking the mental repetitions, and that's as important as the physical repetitions at any position.
"It's a great teaching point moving forward about commitment. We talk about you either live it, love it or like it, and at Tennessee you have to live it every day."
Peterman shrugged off his dedication during absence, insisting he merely had followed coaches' instructions.
"I'm just following their directions. They told me to prepare like the starter, and quarterback's such a mental position, so I was going to do what they told me and just try to be the best player still that I could be," Peterman said. "Obviously I couldn't throw a ball, but maybe I could get better mentally or something like that."
While Peterman could not throw a ball for much of the time after he underwent surgery on his right hand in the week after the Florida loss, he said he's now much closer to 100 percent but also admitted he faces a bit of an uncertain future.
Tennessee has started true freshman Joshua Dobbs in each of its past two games since junior incumbent Justin Worley suffered a thumb injury similar to Peterman's that required surgery last month.
"I feel very good. Coming out here every day getting better," Peterman said. "Last week they had me wearing a brace and now with just the tape it feels very strong. I'm just so happy to be out here playing.
" … I don't know [what the future holds]. I'm going to trust God with everything that happens for me. I love this sport. I love just out here practicing and playing. So I'm going to come out here every day trying to be the best quarterback I can be and just trust God with what happens."