For one Tennessee football player Christmas came before Thanksgiving this year…
Wes Brown's shoestring interception and 25-yard return for a touchdown in Saturday's closing seconds -- on the last play of his Neyland Stadium career -- was enough for the Southeastern Conference to select Brown its Defensive Lineman of the Week.
Brown added three tackles in the game, including one for a nine-yard sack, and contributed one quarterback hurry from his defensive tackle position as the Vols defeated Vanderbilt 31-16. Tennessee held the Commodores to just one touchdown on four trips inside the red zone.
But it was the signature moment of Lane Kiffin's debut season as Tennessee head coach that set off a wild celebration on the UT sideline.
The play came in the closing seconds as the Vols were trying to deny Vanderbilt a tying drive. Brown picked off the errant toss from Vanderbilt quarterback Mackenzi Adams and scored his first collegiate touchdown on his final Neyland Stadium play with just three seconds remaining.
"I put my hands out, and the next thing I know I was running with it," Brown said. "It just happened so fast. I'm not used to intercepting a pass and running with it, so it was just a dream come true for me.
Commodores tailback Warren Norman was draped all over Brown for the final 10 yards, but the senior from Athens, Ala., showed a nose for the end zone.
"Everybody was saying, ‘That might have been the ugliest thing I've ever seen.' I felt him hopping on my back but I didn't want to be denied. I wanted to score, and I couldn't ask for a better ending."
It was Brown's second game in a row with an interception, and the former defensive end now is tied for the team lead. Brown's first touchdown since high school came in his 49th collegiate contest.
"What a neat way to end the game on the last play for Wes," Kiffin said of the former defensive end, who has played the entire season on two bad knees and rarely participates in a full practice. "You can't have a guy who's worked harder since he's been here and been through more things.
"To see him just shows that if you want something bad enough, it can happen. The fact that he can intercept that ball, run like that and carry the guy on his back -- just a really neat story."
Other honorees from the SEC this week were Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett (offense), Kentucky linebacker Sam Maxwell (defense), Alabama returner Javier Arenas (special teams), Mississippi guard Reid Neely (offensive line) and Vanderbilt's Norman (freshman).