Fifth-year tight end Austin Pope has removed his name from the NCAA transfer portal, according to a report from Austin Price of VolQuest.com.
Pope announced on Dec. 21 that he had entered the transfer portal. Price stated that Pope received interested from Missouri, Illinois and Northwestern amongst others, but Pope ultimately decided to return for one final season on Rocky Top.
“I would like to make public my decision to enter the transfer portal as a graduate transfer for my final year of eligibility,” Pope said in a statement he released when he announced on Twitter his intentions to transfer. “This decision to forgo my final season at the University of Tennessee was not easy, and I assure you that you will all be missed.
“First and foremost, I want to thank God for bestowing upon me the skills necessary to play this great game of football that I love so much. As a small-town kid from Sevierville, Tenn., I would dream about playing for the Vols while playing in my backyard. My time at UT has truly been a dream come true, and I would not trade the time spent playing here for anything.
“There are a few people whom I would like to personally offer my gratitude to for all they have done for me in my time here. Coach Larry Scott, Marshall Steward and the academic staff, Jason McVeigh, Dr. Chris Klenck, Greg DeFilippo, and Coach Pruitt — thank you for helping me become the best football player that I can be, while also helping me grow every day in becoming a better man — your impact on my life will not be forgotten. To my teammates — both the old heads that showed me the way and my current teammates — I will never forget the memories we shared on that field and in the locker room, the bond we share is one-of-a-kind. To all who have had a small hand in this process both near and far, thank you for helping make a small-town kid’s dreams come true.”
Pope did not play for the Vols this season after having offseason back surgery. He announced on July 16 that he was recovering from surgery to repair a herniated disc.
He previously missed part of UT’s offseason a year ago after having a separate surgery on his back. Pope has been hampered by injuries for most of his Tennessee career, with the most recent injury before this season’s back issue being a partially torn hamstring during the 2019 season.
The 6-foot-4, 235-pound tight end emerged as a key part of Tennessee’s offense last season as a run blocker. Pope played in all of UT’s 13 games and made 11 starts, totaling four catches for 21 yards through the air. His blocking ability proved invaluable, and he was used both as a tight end and H-back throughout the season.
Pope joined the Vols in the 2016 class out of the Christian Academy of Knoxville and redshirted his freshman year. He appeared in nine games in the 2017 season and made one start, catching two passes for nine yards. As a redshirt junior in 2018, Pope played in 11 games and made two starts, catching a 55-yard reception against Florida.
In his Tennessee career, Pope has appeared in 33 games and has totaled seven receptions for 85 yards.