Derek Barnett pens open letter to ‘Vol Nation’ before leaving for NFL draft


KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The shake-ups to the Tennessee football team just keep coming.

Just hours after Tennessee wide receiver Josh Malone announced he was leaving early for the NFL draft, Barnett announced he is also NFL bound. The news is not surprising after the Music City Bowl.

Friday, Derek Barnett broke the school record for career sacks in the Music City Bowl. Barnett scored 33 sacks in 39 games, beating former record holder Reggie White.

Barnett posted an open letter addressed to “Vol Nation” on the Tennessee Athletics web page, calling his time with the Vols “A dream come true.”

Over the last few weeks, I’ve really thought about my time at the University of Tennessee and the people who have had the biggest impact on me. Playing at a prestigious, SEC program and then having the opportunity to declare for the NFL Draft after three years is a dream come true.

I’d like to thank my teammates. The relationships I’ve built with them will last a lifetime. I’m very grateful to have been able to grow over these last few years with my brothers.

Thank you to the football staff and specifically Coach Stripling, who dedicated a lot of time to the D-line room, helping us get better on the field and also being better men off the field. Thank you to Coach Ollie for helping me improve daily in my film study and for being critical of me. And thank you to Coach Jones for giving me the opportunity to play at a great university and represent my home state.

Thank you to all of the training staff and the equipment managers who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure my teammates and I were prepared to go to work every day.

Thank you to the University of Tennessee for the opportunity to be a student-athlete at a great institution. Thank you to all of my professors and the Thornton Center staff for helping me balance all that goes into becoming a successful student-athlete.

I’d also like to thank Vol Nation – the best fans in the country – who have supported me from Day One.

Thank you to my family and close friends for being supportive of me and helping everything fall into place.

And thank you to my mother, Ms. Christine. Thank you for your hard work. I’ve seen how hard you’ve worked since I was a kid. I have always been inspired by that and that’s where I get my motivation from. Thank you for your everlasting love and support.

Foregoing my senior year was a hard decision but it has always been my dream to play in the NFL.

As I enter the next journey of my life, it’s most important to me that you know, all I’ve ever wanted to do was represent the Tennessee Football program and my home state of Tennessee well.

Thank you for the great times and many memories – and God Bless,

– Derek Barnett

He also took to Twitter to address his time with the program.

“It has been three great years,” Barnett tweeted. “I’m very thankful for getting the opportunity to play at Tennessee! Thank you all for the many memories.”


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