SMYRNA, Tenn. — Tennessee football signee Tanner Antonutti knew something was wrong when it came time to order at the Waffle House.
Antonutti was on his way home with friends after after his Ensworth High School (Nashville, Tenn.) team played a postseason game in Chattanooga when the group stopped for food.
“I usually get a full plate of hash browns, two sausages, egg and cheese sandwiches and then waffles,” the Vols’ offensive line prospect said. “But something didn’t feel right. All I could eat was half of one sandwich.”
“It was Feb. 24,” said Nancy Antonutti, who became a very concerned mother over the next 12 days. “Tanner lost 26 pounds, going from 277 pounds to 251 pounds. It was terrible.”
The strong flu virus that swept the nation had taken hold of Antonutti, and his weakened immune system led to esophageal ulcers that made swallowing painful.
“It was so bad Tanner would carry around a cup just to spit in,” Nancy Antonutti said. “We had to take him to the hospital twice for IVs that week.”
The illness forced Antonutti to miss the final week of the third quarter of school, creating a challenging situation to make up classes and studies for exams.
“The teachers at Ensworth were great and made it all work,” Nancy Antonutti said. “But it was hard for him the next few weeks to catch up on all of his studies.”
Antonutti — currently 6-foot-5, 273 pounds — remembers the terror of knowing something was wrong while doctors struggled to find a diagnosis.
“I didn’t eat for 12 days, and when I tried to drink water, it felt like my insides were on fire,” he said. “There wasn’t throwing up, or anything like that, but there were chills.
“I remember coming down the steps my legs felt like they were going to give out.”
Antonutti had bounced back from ankle surgery and shoulder surgery following his junior football season, and on March 6 it was time for an endoscopy.
“The doctors said his esophagus was inflamed and raw,” Nancy Antonutti said. “But we finally got him on the right medicine.”
Jeremy Pruitt checks in
Antonutti was on the road to recovery when Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt called to check in.
“I was so worried about my scholarship because I’d lost lost all that weight and was down to almost 250 pounds at one point, and Tennessee wants me to come in at 285, Antonutti said. “But he’s my head coach. I had to be honest with him about what was going on.
“So I said ‘I’m back to 268.’ Coach Pruitt said ‘We can’t have you playing at 268, so try to put that weight back on and take care of yourself.’”
Antonutti has done just that. He plays first base and pitches for Ensworth in addition to competing on the track team. Antonutti will attempt to defend his state championship in the discus throw in May.
Tennessee’s offensive line is in need of immediate contributors with the futures of Chance Hall and Trey Smith in doubt. The athletic Antonutti is following the weightlifting program the Vols sent him, anxious to contribute.
“I was at the Orange and White Game, and I talked to the Tennessee doctors who were there,” Antonutti said. “They seemed pleased I had gained back 20 pounds.
“I can’t wait to get there on May 29, and then on to classes June 1.”
Tanner Antonutti 1-on-1 April 23, 2018
Tennessee 2018 signee Tanner Antonutti shares his impressions
Posted by Tennessee Volunteers Insiders on Monday, April 23, 2018