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Keenan Pili Provides Health Update After Season-Ending Injury in 2023

Keenan Pili
NASHVILLE, TN – September 02, 2023 – Linebacker Keenan Pili #11 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the game between the Virginia Cavaliers and the Tennessee Volunteers at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, TN. Photo By Kate Luffman/Tennessee Athletics

After transferring from BYU to Tennessee before the 2023 season for his final run in college football, Keenan Pili’s journey hit a major obstacle before it even got started.

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound linebacker made his Tennessee debut in the Vols’ season opener against Virginia last year but suffered a tricep injury during the game that would require surgery. While Pili was still praised for his activeness and leadership from the sidelines and the practice field during the season, it was a tough blow for the longtime college football veteran.

Seven months after that injury, with a long rehab process painstakingly taking up the days in between, Pili is back on the practice field for Tennessee spring camp as his final season of college football approaches.

“I feel good,” Pili relayed to the media during a press conference on Tuesday. “Just happy to play football again.”

While some of Tennessee’s players who suffered injuries later in the season are still working off to the side at spring camp, Pili has been a full participant in the portions of practice that the media has had access to.

“I feel healthy, I feel strong,” Pili said. “I feel like the tricep’s coming along in a good way, so I’m excited for the future.”

With increased strength comes a need for balance, though. Just because Pili is back out there on the practice field with his teammates, the Las Vegas, Nev., native is making sure to use his experience and the training staff to his advantage. There’s still nearly five months until the start of the season, after all.

“I think the biggest thing for me is what I have learned over the years, I have to trust the people who know more than me, and just trusting whatever parameters they give me,” Pili said on Tuesday. “Maybe they say ‘do this,’ and maybe I think I should be doing something else, but I just do what I am told. I feel like the people who have been placed here, especially at Tennessee, we have so many resources and people that have education for those types of things. So, I just listen and when I get my time to work, I work.”

More from RTI: Tennessee Football Notes And Observations: Spring Practice No. 11

In addition to the rehabilitated tricep muscle, Pili’s experience as a second-year player with the program has also added to his increased sense of comfortability in the offseason.

“I’m super comfortable,” Pili said about being in the building in his second year compared to in 2023. “I think, kind of like some of the guys in our room, once you have that year under your belt, that’s your biggest leap—especially for incoming freshmen or people like me who maybe transferred from a different school. Once you have that first year under your belt, you feel way more comfortable in the scheme, way more comfortable in the new city and new place, for sure.”

Heading into his seventh season of college football, the “old head” in the room, as rising sophomore linebacker Jalen Smith likes to tease him with, Pili is embracing his role as one of the older and more experienced players with his position.

Tennessee has 10 linebackers in the room this spring. While Pili is the only redshirt senior, Tennessee has one freshman, one redshirt freshman, two sophomores, one redshirt sophomore, two juniors, one redshirt junior, and one senior.

“Obviously, I’m older and it’s kind of the joke of the room because we also have a heavily younger-sided room,” said Pili, who has been given the nickname of Uncle Grandpa this spring. “So it’s funny seeing those dynamics.”

Pili’s health and leadership traits are a few of the more productive and important pieces of news to come out of Tennessee’s spring training camp.

Stay tuned to Rocky Top Insider for more from the final week of Tennessee spring camp.

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