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Barnett On Getting Record: “I Think Reggie Probably Helped On That”

Photo Credit: Will Boling/RTI

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Nobody could question the effort that Derek Barnett put in on Friday as he helped the Vols to a 38-24 Music City Bowl victory and chased the late Reggie White’s UT career sack record as well.

The junior defensive end, likely playing his last game for UT, got to Nebraska quarterback Ryker Fyfe time and time again through the first 50+ minutes of the game, only to come up just short of recording the record-breaking 33rd career sack numerous times. He was officially credited with four quarterback hurries. It felt like 10 or more.

One potential sack even went to review. It was ruled an incomplete pass instead of a strip and a sack.

With the final minutes running off, it looked like Barnett might have to settle for a tie with White. But then he got some help – maybe not the type you would anticipate, though.

It was a flag on teammate Marquill Osborne, a pass interference call that extended a late Nebraska drive. With only about five minutes remaining, a turnover on downs at that point very well might’ve effectively ended the game. The Vols would’ve been a couple first downs away from icing it.

Instead, Barnett got another shot. Five plays later, he got around the edge as he had so many other times this game and in his career. Fyfe felt the pressure, tried to escape, but went down for the historic 33rd sack.

“I think Reggie probably helped on that,” Barnett said with a laugh when discussing the sequence of events that led to the record-breaking sack. “I think he was looking down. I think he probably tossed a little bit for me – it’s crazy. Like I said, you keep on working and good things will come. That’s with everything in life.”

The team erupted so much that Butch Jones called a timeout to let the excitement on the sideline play out.

“I think that shows you the respect that our football team has for Derek Barnett, and the excitement and the unselfishness of our football team,” Jone said. “That they wanted to go celebrate with him because they knew that that was a milestone; that that was something very, very special. And that’s one of those moments in time that you’ll always remember.”

It might not have been the season that many Vols envisioned, but it’d be tough to script a better finish for Barnett, who broke the record in his hometown in the final minutes of his career. Jones pulled him off the field for the final relatively meaningless drive for Nebraska.

His work at Tennessee was clearly well done and finished.

Barnett said he’d sit down with his family to decide what’s next in terms of his career. It’s not official, but he is all but certainly going pro. He accomplished more than anybody could’ve imagined at Tennessee, and it’d be tough to go out any better.

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