Editor’s note: This article originally ran in October when news that Reeves-Maybin’s senior season was over. We’re posting it again due to the news that he signed with an agent over the weekend and won’t return for a fifth year at UT.
When Jalen Reeves-Maybin came to Tennessee, he was a low four-star recruit out of Clarksville, TN. In high school, Reeves-Maybin on offense and defense, accumulating over 2,000 rushing yards as a senior while also being named All-State on defense by the Tennessee Sports Writers. New Tennessee head coach Butch Jones switched Reeves-Maybin to safety as a freshman, but he rarely saw the field on defense.
But that didn’t stop Reeves-Maybin from having an impact quickly.
Reeves-Maybin was a force on special teams as a freshman, leading the team with 11 special teams tackles. He also blocked a punt against Georgia that helped spark the Vols in a upset effort that fell just short.
In 2014, Reeves-Maybin was moved back to linebacker. And it was there where he started to make a name for himself.
As a sophomore, Reeves-Maybin started all 13 games at outside linebacker for the Vols and amassed 101 total tackles. He sacked opposing quarterbacks twice and totaled 11 tackles for loss. In just his second year in the SEC, Reeves-Maybin was already in the top 10 in total tackles and tackles for game.
Then in his junior year, Reeves-Maybin became a leader for the Vols and a favorite among fans.
Reeves-Maybin led the team with 105 total tackles in 2015 after once again starting every single game. He also totaled six sacks, 14 tackles for loss, broke up four passes, and forced two fumbles. His 21 tackles against Oklahoma were the most of any Vol since A.J. Johnson in 2012, and it was the most in a single game by any player in college football in 2015.
But Reeves-Maybin’s impact went deeper than just his stats. He was the heart and soul of Tennessee’s defense in 2015, and that was made even more apparent when he was named on of the Vols’ four permanent captains before the 2016 season.
The 2016 season didn’t start off well for Reeves-Maybin, as he was ejected after a targeting call early in the first quarter of Tennessee’s opening game against Appalachian State. He would make up for that in the following weeks, totaling 13 tackles against Virginia Tech in the Battle at Bristol and getting three more against Ohio before sustaining what would eventually be a season-ending injury.
But that injury didn’t stop Reeves-Maybin from giving his all. In fact, he went back out on the field against Florida the next week and played in the first half, totaling two tackles before leaving the game.
It’s fitting that Reeves-Maybin’s final snaps on the field as a Vol were in Tennessee’s streak-busting victory against the Florida Gators. Reeves-Maybin is one of the players who has seen Tennessee rise up from a 5-7 squad in 2013 to the 5-1 nationally ranked squad they have now. He’s been through it all during his Vol career, and he will finish his Tennessee career having played in 41 games, starting 30 of them. He finishes with 240 career tackles, 27 tackles for loss, and eight sacks in those 41 games.
For many Vol fans, Reeves-Maybin was one of the core players that helped bridge the gap from mediocrity back to relevance. He’s a team leader and the soul of the defense even when he’s not on the field.
Reeves-Maybin has meant more to Tennessee and Vol fans than stats can measure. And his legacy as a Vol will reflect that.