NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee All-American defensive end Derek Barnett is almost a sure-fire lock to be selected in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft provided he declares himself eligible, as most everyone expects.
Barnett, however, said on Tuesday he never considered skipping the Vols’ Music City Bowl game against Nebraska in the interest of protecting his NFL value.
“I’m from Tennessee. I play at Tennessee, It would be disrespectful not to play,” Barnett said following the Vols’ practice at Montgomery Bell Academy on Tuesday, when SECcountry.com posed the question. “That thought didn’t cross my mind too much. I don’t see why I wouldn’t (play).
“A lot of people can’t play football and wish they could, so I’m taking full advantage of it.”
LSU tailback Leonard Fournette, and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, are two players who announced they would not play in their respective teams’ bowl games.
Barnett can become Tennessee’s all-time sacks leader, breaking the tie he’s in with hall of fame Reggie White (32), with one sack in Friday’s game at Nissan Stadium.
Barnett, who attended Brentwood Academy, said he wants to get the sour taste out of his mouth that losing in his backyard to Vanderbilt in November has left him with.
“I want to play right now because I have a bad taste in my mouth from that last game,” Barnett said. “If I could, I’d play right now.”
Barnett has 11 sacks this season, and his 31 career sacks are the most among active college football players.
More than 90 percent of Barnett’s sacks have come against SEC competition, and he’s the first player in league history with 10 or more sacks his first three years of school.