Kyler Kerbyson is scheduled to play in his 43rd game as a Tennessee Volunteer on Saturday. Not bad for a 3-star prospect who was thought to be an add-on commitment for an outgoing coach.
Tennessee fans sensed a public relations motive when former head coach Derek Dooley took a commitment from a local high school prospect in 2010. Surely Dooley was just trying to improve his standing in the community, right? Turns out Dooley knew what he was talking about, for once.
Kerbyson’s career is a testament to his work ethic and dedication. He’s consistently improved, as evident by starting every Tennessee game for the last two seasons. He’s started at the most important position on the offensive line, left tackle, despite being better suited physically to play offensive guard.
On a youthful offensive line beleaguered by injuries for two consecutive seasons, Kerbyson has been the one thing Tennessee coach Butch Jones could depend on. The senior will play his last game at Neyland Stadium against Vanderbilt on Saturday.
“He’s basically seen anything and everything that you could see,” Jones said on Wednesday. “He’s a wealth of experience. He’s a wealth of knowledge.”
Kerbyson shouldn’t just be remembered for the number of snaps he’s played. His influence on his younger teammates may be even more impactful.
“He’s very down to earth,” Jones said. “He’s very approachable. And he is a true team player. He wants everyone to do well. He wants Tennessee football to do well.
That means Kerbyson is also willing to speak his mind. He did so before the Alabama game on Oct. 24.
“They’re regular guys out there, just like everyone else,” Kerbyson said of the Crimson Tide before the game.
Jones, who is always mindful of public comments, probably didn’t appreciate that comment at the time. However, it proved accurate as the Vols stood toe-to-toe with Alabama before losing, 19-14. Kerbyson voiced his team’s confidence even in a huge underdog role.
“He’s very willing to give his opinion and it’s all about performing,” Jones quipped.
Before Kerbyson takes the field on Saturday, he will once again be the player his teammates can lean on. Football won’t be the main course, it will be turkey. The Kerbysons will be one of the local, Knoxville families hosting players who can’t make it home for Thanksgiving.
“I know with my mom and with all of the other local moms, they don’t care about fixing a little bit more food,” Kerbyson said. “It might be a lot more food depending on who you invite. They definitely don’t mind. It’s all about family and bringing those guys in that need some support on Thanksgiving.”
Just in case any of the players need advice on picking sides, Kerbyson will be there willing to offer his opinion.