Tennessee Football: Why Von Pearson Will Be Vols' X-Factor in 2014

Reid Akins@@reidakinsContributor IIJuly 1, 2014

Von Pearson at the 2014 Orange and White Game.
Von Pearson at the 2014 Orange and White Game.USA TODAY Sports

Although Von Pearson is one of the highest-rated recruits in the Tennessee Volunteers 2014 class, his under-the-radar arrival on Rocky Top will give head coach Butch Jones a secret weapon and X-factor on the field this fall. 

Pearson's road to becoming a Vol was anything but traditional. He excelled as a wide receiver at Denbigh High School in Newport News, Virginia, catching 50 passes for 880 yards and seven touchdowns during his senior season. 

But after graduating in 2010, it appeared that Pearson's football career was over due to academic issues. Eventually, the talented wide receiver ended up working behind the counter at a McDonald's in his hometown until a friend suggested he enroll at Feather River College in Quincy River, California, according to UTSports.com's Jason Yellin.

Two outstanding junior college seasons later, Tennessee's coaching staff discovered Pearson's video-game-level highlight tape and gave him his first scholarship offer.

He accepted and immediately shut down his recruitment, despite other schools clamoring to add him to their rosters.

After enrolling at Tennessee in January 2014 and going through spring practices, Pearson emerged as one of the top wide receivers on the roster. In fact, the Knoxville News Sentinel's Evan Woodbery lists Pearson as the No. 3 wide receiver on his early depth chart, ahead of 5-star freshman Josh Malone and just behind redshirt sophomore Jason Croom.  

Pearson's talent isn't the only thing that stands out to coaches. It's also his relentless work ethic and positive attitude. 

Tennessee wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni, who trekked cross country to recruit the 4-star JUCO player, raves about Pearson's coachability and eagerness to please:

It's fun to coach him. Von has endless energy. He'll tap me on the butt when I'm yelling at him, and I love that.

I'm not sure Von has an off switch, which is good. He doesn't have a bad day, he's a glass half-full-all-the-time kid, and we like to be around that.

He is ultra-talented, there is no doubt about it. He makes acrobatic catches just like he did at Feather River, he's made a couple here the last couple of days.

When Pearson first committed to Tennessee, fans compared him to Cordarrelle Patterson, another JUCO to Rocky Top standout who showcased his supreme talent in the Division I ranks for one season before heading to the NFL. 

While it's certainly too early to place Pearson in the same category as an NFL Pro Bowler, he does possess an elite combination of speed, shiftiness and catching ability that could win games for Tennessee and launch his name to the top of the draft boards after the 2014 season.