Tennessee Vols Sign a Changed Man

Joel BarkerSenior Writer IMay 9, 2009

The 13-year old Daniel Hood did something that no one should ever do. The 13-year old Daniel Hood took part in a vicious crime that no one should ever have to endure.

The 13-year old Daniel Hood was convicted of a crime so heinous that his accomplice (a 17-year-old) is serving a 10-year prison sentence.

That was the old Daniel Hood. His past has been well-documented. The victim of the rape has forgiven him, as has God.

That's why the title of this article is not "Vols Sign Convicted Rapist" as just about every other media-type has assessed.

But does that make everything okay? Does that make the University of Tennessee and Lane Kiffin blameless in signing this young man to a football scholarship?

I, of all people, do not have the answer to such a question.

I cannot sit here and pretend to know all the facts; to know the hurt and pain that this young man caused.

All I know is Daniel Hood is a changed man. All I know is his victim is convinced that Hood is a changed man. All I know is that Knox Catholic High School showed grace and mercy to a young delinquent and seemingly changed his life.

Now, I cannot fathom the crime committed against this young lady, who was 14 at the time of the incident. I do not want to think about the atrocities that she had to endure.

Apparently, she has thought about it; she experienced it, for goodness' sake.

Apparently, she has decided that her cousin and former assailant has been rehabilitated.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where bad deeds are much-publicized and people who have been rehabilitated live with an irremovable stigma.

This incident happened six years ago when Hood was a kid. He was tried as a juvenile, convicted as a juvenile, served his time as a juvenile, and by all accounts was rehabilitated as a juvenile.

Regardless of this young man's talent he deserves a second chance. Even his victim believes he deserves to make something of his life.

Recently interviewed and going only by the name Tiffany, the victim said, "I feel like maybe he was scared or intimidated, and you know at that age, it's hard to make any decisions in life, and especially when you are standing there with a 17-year-old and there was such a difference in age gap."

She went on to say, "In my heart, I believe he is very sincere, and he has been very apologetic to me for what has happened and very sincere for it, and he has came to me after this has happened. We are working on our relationship, building it back."

Tiffany also sent a letter to UT officials encouraging them to allow him to not only enroll in the school, but to compete for the football Vols.

So why all the hubbub? Why is everyone from AP Writer Beth Rucker, to Knoxville columnist John Adams, to CBS writer Dennis Dodd calling Lane Kiffin out for this decision?

It's maddening that so many people would be against a young man who has turned his life around. Daniel Hood is a new man. Daniel Hood is not that 13-year old anymore.

My faith dictates to me that I must forgive and forget. Apparently the young victim ascribes to this philosophy as well. Knox-Catholic High School also saw reason to forgive. Now the University of Tennessee and Lane Kiffin have done what everyone else involved in the situation has done.

The media, however, will continue to bring it up. Every time this young man catches a pass, makes a tackle, or even puts on the uniform someone will be there to remind him.

The least we fans, who have no emotional attachment to this case, can do is forgive and forget. If the victim herself has done, this why cant we? For that matter, why cant the media?

Because they're the media, of course, but that's another topic completely.

I just ask of you to please take into account, every time you read or hear about this young man and his past, that Daniel Hood is a new man.

He's at peace with God, the victim, and himself.

Quite frankly, that's all that matters.