The Shadow League caught up with the former Tennessee Volunteer linebacker as he spoke about his life and NFL dreams.
The 2019 NFL Draft will soon be upon us. A select few players are promised to be top selections, while hundreds of others, many of whom were not invited to the NFL Combine, are just hoping for a chance to prove that they can play in the league.
We recently caught up with former Tennessee Volunteer linebacker Quart’e Sapp, who shared his story with us as he prepares to chase his NFL dreams.
“I was born in Jacksonville, Florida. My mom and I moved to Alpharetta, Georgia for my freshman year in high school. My mom was a single parent, and I have a brother that’s ten years younger than me, so for most of my early life it was just me and her. She’s truly my backbone. We’ve been through so much together and she’s made some incredible sacrifices for me.
She used to work for Bell South, but the company got bought out and that’s when we moved to the Atlanta area. She took on the role of both parents and is a remarkably strong individual. She’s taught me everything to make me the man I’ve become today.
I started playing football in the seventh grade. I wanted to play earlier but my mom was hesitant, so I played basketball for the most part when I was younger. Once I started playing football, I fell in love with it, but when I was deciding on which high school to attend, I really didn’t know that I’d have the opportunity to play college football.
I chose to attend Milton High School in Alpharetta, which had a great football and basketball program. In football, they had one of the top players in the nation, Carl Lawson, who played at Auburn and is now in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals. That graduating class had like 12 guys that signed D-I scholarship offers.
I was one of only two sophomores to play on the varsity football squad at Milton and got my first scholarship offer, from Ole Miss, that year. That’s when things opened up in terms of thinking about being able to play at the highest levels. I played all over the field in high school – safety, linebacker, wide receiver – wherever they needed me. I could cover a top receiver or spy a really fast quarterback, so I was versatile.
For people who are not familiar with the level of high school football being played in Fulton County, Georgia, that year, 2013, there were some incredible, crazy athletes coming out of the area like Alvin Kamara, who’s killing it as a young running back with the New Orleans Saints.
The top schools that I was considering were Michigan State, Missouri, Miami, Texas A&M and Tennessee. I chose the Volunteers because that 2015 recruiting class had a really strong bond. I’d met and gotten to know a lot of the guys at various camps like the Nike and Rivals camps. We formed some really good relationships with one another while we were still in high school and we wanted to come to Tennessee to help change the culture.
I was also looking at the opportunity to play in the SEC, the top college football conference in the country, and knew that I’d have an opportunity to play early on. The transition wasn’t easy though.
When my mom dropped me off to move into my dorm, it hit me when she left that I was on my own and she wasn’t coming back to stay with me. It had always been me and her for so long. And the biggest part of the adjustment was learning how to balance football and academics. To be successful as a college athlete, you have to master the art of time management.
You don’t realize what you’re a part of until you’re out of it and reflecting back on it now, I just appreciate being able to compete at a place like Tennessee. Right now, working to prepare myself for the NFL level, I look back at my time in college, the things I was able to do, the goals I was able to accomplish, and I realize that a lot of people don’t get to experience those things.
I told my mom when I went there that my main goal wasn’t related to football, it was to graduate. And I did that. I’m very proud to be the first male in my family to graduate and obtain a college degree. I’m very appreciative that I was able to keep that promise that I made to her and myself. That degree, you can’t ever take that away from me. Football isn’t going to be there for the rest of my life, so I had to make sure that I left college with something.
Since I got to Tennessee, I played for three different defensive coordinators and had to learn three different defenses, with allof their varying schemes, philosophies and terminologies. Talking to the scouts from various NFL teams over the past few months, they were impressed with the knowledge I’ve acquired and how I was able to acclimate myself to the various systems that I played in.
Out of this whole process of getting ready for the draft, a lot of things get overlooked. People don’t realize what goes into this process. You don’t just up and leave and go off on your own to train for the combine or your school’s pro day. There’s a lot of factors that’s part of the process. I made my announcement that I was foregoing my final year of eligibility via Twitter, through a video that UT’s video team help me put together.
Once you make the decision to go chase the NFL dream, you have to meet with different agencies and figure out what agent you want to sign with and have them represent you. Then you have to figure out where’s the best facility to go and train to get ready. I wasn’t invited to the combine, so I had to train for months to prepare for my pro day at Tennessee. You have to set goals in terms of your times and how you want to perform in the drills that will make you stand out at your position.
I got to the training facility in Florida earlier than most guys because we didn’t play in a bowl game. I got there two days after Christmas. Once you finish the season, you can’t just jump right into training. You have to recover and get your body right, get it re-aligned with a chiropractor while getting various treatments.
In January, I ramped it up with the weight training, speed and agility stuff. There’s also the dietary and nutrition stuff, just so many different elements. But at the end of the day, it’s all about football. Pro Day was really nerve-wracking, but I was excited to show what I could do and what I could offer to an NFL team.
To finally have that one day, which I was working towards for three months, was relaxing and releasing. I finally got a chance to do what I needed to do, to make my statement to the scouts about my skills, athleticism, desire and preparedness.
I’ve had some great feedback from scouts that I’ve met with and some of the teams that I worked out for. They seem to like what I can offer and how I can fit into their schemes.
I’m really excited to have an opportunity and will be happy with whatever team that wants to give me a shot.
I don’t have anything planned for the Draft days. I’m just gonna relax with my family and wait for a phone call.”