Tennessee defensive back Julian Battle had been waiting all season to realize his potential as a playmaker for the Volunteers' defense.
He's done waiting.
Battle's 81-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown, along with a forced fumble against Notre Dame was the arrival of UT's big-play safety, he said.
"I think I had a pretty good game. I didn't have that many tackles, but I think I made some key plays in the game," Battle said. "I think last week was my week against Notre Dame. I just went out and played."
Battle's score, the first touchdown he'd scored since last year when he played for Los Angeles Valley College, came with less than five minutes to go in the first half in a 0-0 game.
Not only did the play give the Vols the lead and halt a threatening Notre Dame inside the 20-yard line, it also gave the faltering Tennessee offense a charge, Battle said.
"I think the touchdown changed the momentum a little bit," he said. "I think it gave the offense a little spark. They knew that the defense scored and that's what the offense is supposed to be doing, then they got on their horse and rode out."
The recovery, especially the auspicious bounce that elevated the ball directly into his waiting arms, was nothing but grace, Battle said.
"It was a blessing from the Lord," Battle said of running toward Notre Dame's Touchdown Jesus for the score. "That was what all my friends told me. That was the perfect bounce. It couldn't have been any more perfect than that. It was a blessing."
The blessings of last Saturday might have surfaced after a blessing in disguise on Oct. 20, in the Vols' win at Alabama.
Battle, hobbled by an ankle injury, played what he called the worst game of his life, from high school to junior college to Tennessee.
But after the game, Battle turned the shame of the 'Bama game into motivation, Vols coach Phillip Fulmer said.
"I think he was embarrassed about it, but I think he understood and responded with his practice habits - not that they were bad, but they weren't at the level of ability that he has," Fulmer said.
Hustling, like he did on the fumble recovery and strip of Irish flanker Arnaz Battle on the 1-yard line, has been the name of Battle's game lately, he said.
"I think that's really been the story with me the last couple of weeks, hustling every play. What coach says makes a lot of sense: 'If you play 100 percent, you never know how good you can be.' It's been my main thing to try and hustle.
"I'm living testimony that if you practice hard, you're going to play well."
Jumping from junior college to Tennessee didn't quite go as expected, but there's finally a level of comfort when Battle takes the field, he said.
"At first, I thought I would come in and make a whole bunch of plays, but it wasn't that easy. I had to get adjusted to everything and get accustomed. I think I'm over that hump a little bit, so I can play a little more freely now."
Defensive back realizes his potential
Published: Wed Nov 07, 2001 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 03:54 p.m.