Baylen Buchanan didn’t want to leave Tennessee, but the senior defensive back felt he had no choice.
Buchanan entered the transfer portal recently with the goal of playing at another college and eventually making it in the NFL, where his dad, Ray Buchanan, was a defensive back for 12 years.
Buchannan said University of Tennessee doctors did not clear him two years in a row, reportedly a narrowing of the spinal cord. But he said he was cleared before the 2019 season by NFL doctors.
“I feel good,’’ said Buchanan, who will be a grad transfer. “It was never a situation where I wasn’t feeling good. If I wasn’t comfortable, I wouldn’t keep trying to play and put myself in harm’s way.’’
Buchanan said being cleared by NFL doctors — but not by UT doctors — was frustrating.
“Not playing, it was real tough, I ain’t gonna lie,’’ Buchanan told The Sports Animal on Wednesday afternoon. “Stepping away from the game one year was alright. If this is what I got to do, I will be back.
“But when the second year came around (and he was denied again) that was like a dagger. It’s kind of hard to keep your confidence up.’’
Buchanan said he didn’t sit around idly.
“I kept my mind in the game,’’ he said. “I did nothing but watch film and study football the whole time. I stayed in tune with the game and stayed in shape, training with my dad. And the people around me kept me focused. I’ve got a real good support system.’’
Buchanan said he has been contacted by about 10 teams, including a couple from the SEC. But he said it “didn’t work out’’ with those SEC teams. He plans to make a decision by Jan. 4.
Buchanan said he was going through spring ball with UT when it was canceled.
He had hopes of playing at Tennessee again until the doctors didn’t clear him.
Buchanan, who started 12 games in 2018 and recorded 49 tackles, said he didn’t really argue his case with UT doctors about being cleared by NFL doctors.
“I guess it was just a situation they didn’t feel comfortable (with him playing),’’ Buchanan said. “The Tennessee doctors had their reasons. Everything happens for a reason. They were probably concerned about my overall health.
“There is no bad blood between me and Tennessee.’’
Buchanan said he should have transferred after UT first declined to clear him but “my love for the university and school kept from doing that.’’
Buchanan said UT coaches “didn’t want him to leave, but they can’t go against the Tennessee doctors. The coaches wanted me to stay because they felt I was a big asset to the (secondary) room.’’
Buchanan said Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt was “very supportive’’ of his decision to transfer and “he understood. He told me I had his full support and if I need to reach out to anybody, he would vouch for me. I appreciated that.’’
Buchanan said his ultimate goal is to play in the NFL and playing one more year of college could facilitate that.
“I was thinking about declaring (for the NFL),’’ he said, “but I felt like I wanted to put one more year of film out there to prove I’m healthy enough to hit and play.’’