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Tennessee's Derek Barnett Thankful for Road Leading to NFL Draft


PHILADELPHIA – "It's gone by fast."

Derek Barnett wasn't just talking about the last few months here on Wednesday. When asked about hearing his name called in the NFL Draft, Barnett recalled his childhood memories on the football field in Middle Tennessee, his path to Brentwood Academy, and ultimately his career at the University of Tennessee.

"Wow, it really does fly by,'' said Barnett, a 6-foot-3, 265-pound defensive lineman who set Tennessee's all-time career sacks record of 33.0. "All of this, it really doesn't feel real yet to me, that I am about to walk across the stage -- or at least I hope to walk across the stage.

"But I am so thankful. A lot of people don't get to be in this position, and for me to be here. … I know some people might say it sounds cliché, but I really have no words for it. I really am thankful."

Barnett first started playing football in the Nashville area as a fifth-grader with the Brentwood Blaze. From there he went to Brentwood Academy, in the sixth grade. He was a star in high school at BA, and earned a scholarship to Tennessee, where he became a force.

Barnett broke the school's previous sack record of 32.0, held by the legendary Reggie White, at Tennessee. His 52.0 career tackles for loss ranks second in Tennessee history only to Leonard Little's program-record 53.0.

He finished his junior season with a career-high 13.0 sacks, which ranks as the third-highest single-season mark in UT history behind only White's 15.0 in 1983 and Jonathan Brown's 13.5 in 1997.

Barnett is regarded as one of the best pass rushers in this year's NFL Draft. He said he could play in a 4-3 defensive scheme as a lineman, or in a 3-4 scheme as an outside linebacker, or lineman. NFL Network's Mike Mayock has Barnett listed as the No.3 edge rusher in the draft behind Texas A&M's Myles Garrett and Stanford's Solomon Thomas.

Barnett said the support he continues to receive from those back home "has been awesome."

"I have stayed well connected with a lot of people from my city, and Brentwood Academy,'' he said. "Now I am just ready out find out what city I am going to, what organization, and I'm ready to get to work.

"Everybody says enjoy it because when you get to a team it is back to work. But that is me, I like working. I like football, and I love being around the gang. I am ready to get to my town and get going."

Barnett, who grew up a Titans fan, paid a pre-draft visit to Saint Thomas Sports Park earlier this month.

So what if the Titans picked him? Barnett said during his pre-draft visit it would be great.

He was asked about it again on Wednesday, and smiled.

"Being from Nashville, I was a Titans fan,'' Barnett said. "I remember watching Keith Bulluck and Jevon Kearse, Steve McNair, all those guys. Man, it's crazy how time flies by, and I'm already in this position myself. It doesn't seem like it was that long ago."

Titans GM Jon Robinson, head coach Mike Mularkey address reporters two days out of the 2017 NFL Draft. (Photos: AP, Gary Glenn)

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