I love getting punched in the face.
Most who know me probably look at that sentence and feel completely perplexed, wondering how in the world placid and mild-mannered Chase Parker could ever be in a situation where the end result would be getting punched in the face. Prior to coming to Knoxville, I would have been equally confused by such a statement coming from my mouth.
I had never truly fought someone. I had never been in anything more than a few scraps on the football field and one or two fraternal brawls with my little brother over his incessantly annoying little brother-ness. Despite my lack of experience, I convinced myself to eschew caution and compete in SAE's Ace Miller Boxing Tournament last spring.
My family reacted in horror at the thought of me standing in front of thousands of people trying to punch another human being in the face more times than he could punch mine. I charged on regardless, learning how to throw a punch without flailing around as if I were in a NASCAR pit fight. A personal trainer taught me to slip punches, absorb them into my glove, and other general techniques for lessening the amount of knuckles hitting my forehead, all in the matter of a few months and more than a few bruises along the way.
In spite of learning all these tricks of the trade in my three-month crash course, I received a nose injury similar to getting a line drive hit in my face a few weeks before the tournament started. Instead of a 5 oz. ball of leather, it was a professionally trained fist slamming into my nose.
Not only did I look like a less-blue Avatar alien, I also wasn't able to compete in the tournament after months of hard work, a sore body and strict dieting.
I lost the chance to compete in one of UT's most recognizable events, but I gained something other than just a broken nose that I could not have gotten any other way: the experience.
That has been the entirety of my career at UT – one, Big Orange experience. Every time a new opportunity has presented itself to me, I have taken it without hesitation.
Nowhere other than here at UT could I have been a part of something so grand that it convinced me to throw out my precautions and mild nature to the wind. That is what makes coming to UT so much better than any other school in the SEC.
Here you have the opportunity to do nearly anything you could imagine. Instead of sitting alone with your lethargy watching music videos on YouTube and subsequently complaining about how boring music is these days, go pick up an instrument at a pawn shop and teach yourself how to play it, even if its only one Luke Bryan song.
Instead of complaining about how the NFL is so boring now that players can't forcibly remove others players' heads on a crossing route over the middle, go try a sport you have never even considered playing before.
Run a marathon, learn a new language, study in another country, work in a state-of-the-art research facility, submit an idea to one of UT's entrepreneurial contests and start a new business. A thousand more I could recite ad nauseam.
Sure there is football here at UT, and that is one hell of a reason to go here. But what truly makes UT a world-class institution is that it offers opportunities to challenge yourself, break down your walls and throw inhibitions out the window. Above all, UT gives you a chance to fight becoming a boring person, which, frankly, is the most cruel fate of all.
Lace 'em up and step into the ring.
Chase Parker is a junior in biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.