Through only two practices of fall camp, it has been clear to anyone who has seen Tennessee take the field that Von Pearson is already one of the vocal and emotional leaders of this team. The JUCO transfer arrived in the spring and immediately dazzled onlookers with his playmaking ability and physical skills, but after learning more of the playbook and getting settled into his new position, Pearson has emerged as one of the most energetic and encouraging Vols this summer.
His head coach echoed those sentiments to the media after practice on Saturday.
“He fits the description of the Energy Bus,” Jones said, referencing the book by author Jon Gordon that the team studied over the summer. “He’s consistent each and every day and he’s grateful for the opportunity to play at the University of Tennessee. He is grateful to play the game of football. For me, that’s very, very rewarding.
“The gratitude that he has each and every day…He walks by me every day and says ‘Thank you, coach. Thank you for the opportunity.’ The other kids feed off of that. We talk about not only leadership, but about being a good teammate, and he’s a good teammate as well.”
When Von met with the media after practice, the junior was asked how much of an impact enrolling in the spring has had on him. He said that the practice time and classroom sessions with his coaches were invaluable in preparing him for the start of camp and allowed him to improve on his understanding of the position.
“I’m very excited that I came in early,” Pearson said. “It was a hard system (to learn). It was a good thing that I came in during the spring for an early start. “I know what I’m doing now. I can work on my routes and my technique – the little things – instead of learning the plays.
“In spring practice, I was awful. I just made plays off of athleticism. I feel like me coming in the spring has helped a lot now. (The game) has slowed down. I can work on my routes more and the coaches have helped me with my technique. I feel so improved.”
Pearson went on to say that his comfort level is at an all-time high thanks to all of the extra work he put in over the summer. He admits that it was a little difficult at first – adjusting to the atmosphere of big-time college football – but that by putting in the extra time and working harder, he is now much more comfortable in the system and is ready to seize his opportunity.
“I feel so improved because I’ve bought in more. Coming from JUCO you just don’t know, you don’t know about the SEC life, the D-1 life. I feel like I just bought in a little more, got in the film room, talked with coach Z (Zach Azzanni) and learned a little more.
“I just feel like coming from a hard life, never making it in high school, I feel like nothing can phase me. I just try to keep the high energy. I’ve got this second chance.”
That second chance is what fuels Pearson. He has gone from working in a McDonald’s and bagging groceries to playing football at the University of Tennessee, something he says gives him a better perspective and a reason to remain positive.
“At the end of the day I still bring the energy to the group – try to keep everybody up – I just like to bring that energy to the group and make everybody better. I’m never mad. I’m always up – uppity! I’ve got that energy.”
Pearson hopes his energy carries over to his teammates at wide receiver, and through two practices all signs indicate that it has. The group has had a very strong start to the summer and looks to be carrying a lot of momentum into the 2014 season. That momentum and confidence is due in large part to the addition of Von. Thanks to his charisma and willingness to motivate, he is already one of the leaders of this group of pass catchers – a group he sees as not only deep, but also extremely talented and versatile.
“We’ve got all different types of receivers. From the big, from the small, to the quick. Everybody brings something to the table. I like it. I think everybody’s going to bring something to the table and we’re going to go do our thing,” said Pearson.
“We’ve got some playmakers. People might be sleeping on us now, but we’ve got some playmakers and all sorts of talent. We are going to make some plays.”