Make Your Own Fate

When your guys don’t win or make the podium for these national awards despite compelling and obvious arguments, you learn to look elsewhere for validation. And while I can’t promise all of my 25-year-old thoughts on the Heisman Trophy are entirely healthy, I do think it’s the better option overall. Don’t give others the ultimate say on what your performance was or wasn’t. The greatness of Hendon Hooker, or Eric Berry, or Peyton Manning isn’t first or last defined by what individual awards they did or didn’t win. Perhaps at some point, a Tennessee player will win the Heisman. If they do, that’ll be great. But I wouldn’t consider it redemptive or validating, for that player or any of these others.

And at the same time, when one of our guys does win, we don’t miss opportunities to celebrate. Today, that’s joyfully Jalin Hyatt. Hyatt of, “Will he take a step forward?” in August of this year. Hyatt, who got behind Alabama’s secondary a couple times in 2020, first flashing potential he stepped into with both feet this season. Hyatt, who had two catches for 28 yards in the opener against Ball State, then went nuclear.

There are some truly ridiculous portraits of Hyatt’s season, ones we’ll all spend more time in the off-season breaking down. One of my favorites: in the four-game stretch of LSU, Alabama, UT Martin, and Kentucky, Hyatt caught 11 touchdown passes. If his entire season was just those four games, he would’ve finished tied for fourth on UT’s single-season touchdown list. At Wide Receiver U.

Maybe Hyatt will finish it off in the bowl game; he needs 32 yards to pass Robert Meachem for the single season yardage record, and with a huge 10+ catch game he would pass Marcus Nash for the single season receptions record. Or maybe he’ll consider his NFL future and sit this one out; if he and Cedric Tillman both go that route, we’ll get a fuller look at the 2023 offense right away.

But one of my favorite numbers for him is currently secure: in yards per game, Jalin Hyatt is currently the only Vol receiver to ever finish a season averaging 100+ yards per contest. Robert Meachem has this record with 1,298 yards in 13 games (99.8 per). Hyatt is sitting on 1,267 in 12 games (105.6 per).

There are so many great stories at wide receiver at Tennessee, so many additional factors in certain eras. For a while, “guys who played with Manning” was a whole category in this department. “Guys who played for Heupel,” may become its own thing too. And there has, for sure, been a plethora of straight up NFL talent come through Knoxville; plenty of it is still in the league right now.

But already, Jalin Hyatt put together a season that can stand shoulder to shoulder with any of them, and above them all in some ways. Not just because he won the Biletnikoff. But because of what we’ve already seen him do every single week, at a place where wide receivers have often done it better than anywhere else.

What a pleasure it’s been to watch Jalin Hyatt. And will continue to be, wherever we see him next.

Go Vols.

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