As a result, there's an excellent chance that former University of Tennessee player Ryan West will be playing in the NFL next fall. He signed a free-agent contract with the Atlanta Falcons shortly after last weekend's NFL Draft concluded.
West's name may be unfamiliar to many UT fans but he caught the attention of pro scouts with his excellent work as the Vols deep snapper the past 2½ seasons.
West, a 6-3, 260-pounder, was a four-year starter in the offensive and defensive lines for Jack Daniels - no kidding - at Brentwood High School. He also qualified for the state championships in wrestling and placed fifth in the shot put at the state track championships.
West joined the UT program as a walk-on in 2002. He redshirted that season, served as a backup in 2003, then won the first-team snapping job on punts midway through the 2004 season. He added the kick-snapping responsibilities for 2006, earning a scholarship for his efforts.
West's background as a defensive lineman served him well. He recorded two special teams' tackles in 2005 and two more in 2006.
West performed so well as a snapper that he worked out for the Falcons, Panthers, Chiefs and Packers this spring. The Falcons even sent their special teams' coordinator to put him through a workout.
West will compete with Boone Stutz, who was Atlanta's deep snapper as a rookie last fall.
In other free agent news, Chris Leak, who guided Florida to the 2006 national title, has signed with the Chicago Bears. He will compete with another ex-Gator, Rex Grossman, for playing time at quarterback. Leak passed for 2,435 yards and 16 touchdowns last season but was not selected during last weekend's NFL Draft.