Then Inquoris Johnson suffered nerve damage to his shoulder in Game 2 vs. Air Force, ending his season and perhaps ending his career.
No one took the setback harder than Jonathan Wade, Tennessee's other starting corner. That's why Wade disdained his usual No. 4 jersey for Saturday's regular-season finale against Kentucky in favor of wearing 29, Johnson's number.
“He's a real good friend of mine,” Wade says. “We spent a lot of time together this offseason. During two-a-days and camp we got real close. After him being injured like that, I felt it would be a good way to honor him.”
The idea lay dormant for a long time. Then, with the home finale at hand, Wade mentioned his idea to Phillip Fulmer. The head coach gave his blessing.
“It was something I thought about doing a while back,” Wade recalls. “I just never said anything about it.”
The Vol senior hoped to surprise Johnson by showing up wearing No. 29 Saturday afternoon. That plan didn't work out, however.
“I wasn't going to tell him,” Wade notes, “but he told me he was going out of town.”
When Wade revealed his plan to his fallen teammate, Johnson was touched by the kind gesture. But he still offered a word of warning.
As Wade recalls: “He said to make sure I wasn't out there looking sloppy.”