A late starter in football, Zach Barnes is quickly making up for lost time.
The Grayson senior made a commitment Thursday morning to the Tennessee football program, completing a quick rise to success in the sport. The 6-foot-3, 225-pounder played one season in sixth grade and didn't play again until his sophomore season of high school.
But he's developed into a top college prospect that Tennessee likes as an outside linebacker. He also had major offers from Indiana and Southern Miss, who were recruiting him as a defensive end.
"Tennessee's a great school," Barnes said. "They've got a great campus, a great study center, a great new football facility that should be done in 2013. I like the academic program up there. And of course I like the football program."
Barnes, whose father Zach played in the NFL for the Chargers and Falcons, is part of a loaded defense for Grayson, the defending Class AAAAA state champion. The unit includes the nation's top recruit, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, and a pair of Clemson commitments, David Kamara and Wayne Gallman.
All that talent makes for a stout defense, and it also means the SEC-bound Barnes isn't even the most heralded player on his own defensive line.
"It's great (to have all that talent), it's always a challenge just to get on the field," Barnes said. "I've got all these guys around me working hard and they make me want to do my best every day."
Just a few years ago, Barnes didn't know he would be part of this kind of team. He didn't even know he was going to play football, but the sport is starting to pay off pretty well.
"When I'm not playing football now, in the offseason, sometimes I can't go to sleep at night because I'll be thinking about it so much," Barnes said. "I just want to be playing. I want to be out there fighting with my brothers."