Two members of the University of Tennessee football team were arrested over the weekend on alcohol-related charges and resisting arrest.
Officers received a call about a loud party at the apartment of former Tennessee linebacker Dontavis Sapp, 22, who was also taken into custody with Johnson, 22, and O’Brien, 20, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office said.
Johnson, a first-team all-Southeastern Conference selection last season, was charged with purchasing alcohol for a person underage and resisting arrest. O’Brien, a reserve nose tackle as a redshirt freshman last season, was charged with criminal impersonation, resisting arrest and underage consumption of alcohol.
All three have been released.
Johnson, who is returning for his senior season, made a team-high 106 tackles last fall in his third season as a starter. He had 138 tackles in 2012 and ranked fourth among all Football Bowl Subdivision players with 11.5 tackles per game.
O’Brien made 12 tackles and played in all 12 games in a reserve role as a redshirt freshman last season. Sapp closed his career last fall by starting 12 games and making 66 tackles.
Some have questioned why we comment on things like this here. It’s because when a player gets arrested, for any team, it’s news, and it affects the members of the Southeastern Conference indirectly, including Alabama.
Not all arrests are equal, obviously, judging from the potential punishments that follow. Possession of marijuana with a suspicion to distribute from an incoming freshman (like Auburn’s Kalvaraz Bessent) is news, no matter how angry it makes you as a fan. We understand it makes some mad…both that it happened, and that we comment on it here. But an incident like this carries with it major ramifications, both for the individual, and for the program it impacts.
Alcohol-related charges by two current players on the Volunteer squad is also news, especially from a 1st team all SEC player last season.
So is failure to obey/resisting arrest (from Alabama incoming freshman Tony Brown). However, that claim is already being shredded in Tuscaloosa, as reported by CBS Sports and Al.com. Witnesses are saying now that the police in Tuscaloosa were the aggressors following a melee at a party, mostly attended by track athletes.
One brief comment: The Tuscaloosa police are nuts. I’ve experienced it first-hand. My experience with them was in a traffic situation following a game, where I accidentally honked my horn when turning around to tend to our then baby in the back seat. My elbow hit the horn as I turned around to position myself.
The officer directing traffic stopped the entire three lane intersection to hunt down “whoever just honked their horn,” wanting to exact revenge for the crime against humanity he thought had just been committed. He then sent me, my wife and our baby, pacifier and footed-pajamas and all, to the side of the road for “traffic time out” for a couple of cycles so I could think about what I’d done.
It was clear this officer hated his job, and the university town he lived in, not to mention the football game that inconvenienced his Saturdays. He said as much as he announced for all to hear what all he’d been through that day. In that situation you’re at the mercy of the officer until his fit of rage has run its course. There’s not a lot you can do. In Tony Brown’s case, as eye witnesses are now coming forward and saying, that fit included unnecessary use of pepper spray on a young man walking away.
Through the years, many accounts with the Tuscaloosa police department have painted a force completely unsympathetic at best, overly aggressive at worst. I haven’t dealt with the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office, nor that of Knox County. But the described encounter, and my experience with them while in school there allows for a little perspective on my part. Not beating up on them…any policeman serving in that line of work is worth his salt. But some are better than others.
When in school there, I once had to fight (and won) a parking ticket where I parked on a curb that was neither yellow nor marked in any way for “no parking,” yet the officer with the god-complex believed he should be able to assign penalty wherever he wished. I’m telling you, they’re nuts. But I digress…
Putting it in perspective, what the Alabama newcomer did carries a sentence about as stern as picking up trash on the side of the road for a few weekends. What the Auburn newcomer did carries a sentence as stern as having to get used to male love over the next decade. What the Tennessee players did is somewhere in the middle.
Any young man getting himself arrested is tragic. You don’t need that on your record as you try to put a life together for yourself. But very different from you and I, that arrest is broadcast from sea to shining sea because of their involvement with an amateur football organization.
Even more, the tragedy comes in seeing potential futures dashed over bad decisions, bad affiliations, and sometimes just being at the wrong place at the wrong time. A wise parent once told me as a young man, nothing good happens outside your house after 10:00pm. I thought they were crazy then, but as I get older, there’s a lot of wisdom in that notion.
But these are teenagers. Their frontal lobes controlling the ability to sense and determine the consequences of their actions haven’t fully developed yet. In Bessent’s case, if he’s innocent, ratting out your buddies (if the weed really isn’t his) would be a great decision, but that isn’t what he did.
In the Tennessee players’ case, not buying alcohol for the underaged would be a great idea.
And in Brown’s case, staying clear of anything resembling trouble in Tuscaloosa is a good idea as well.
This is all news because we care about this thing called college football. Don’t get mad at us though; we didn’t start the fire. It was always burning since college football has been turning.