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A taste of what Vols drove off

It was late when they saw him for the first time. At least a year past his anticipated arrival.

So you can imagine the frustration of Tennessee fans when they finally saw Chris Leak, skipping off the field following the pregame coin toss.

And you can picture their consternation when Leak did a pirouette between the hashmarks after throwing a touchdown in the first quarter.

Basically, you can envision their distaste when Leak, the one-time quarterback of Tennessee's dreams, showed up Saturday in a Florida uniform.

In a rivalry that has turned tepid since the departure of Steve Spurrier, this was a moment to savor. Leak showing up at Neyland Stadium with the possibilities of greatness before him and a sour split behind.

You know, this once was Leak's preferred destination. Oh, the boy wonder had visited other schools, but everyone knew Leak was leaning this way.

This is back when Leak was the prep quarterback everyone wanted. The kid with impeccable manners and incredible numbers.

It is impossible today to measure the impact Leak's selection of Florida had on the programs because it affected so many decisions that followed.

The Gators, for instance, have adapted the offense around Leak. The Vols, on the other hand, changed their recruiting plans to go after two prominent prep quarterbacks after last season.

The bottom line is, it made for great theater on one of the Southeastern Conference's grandest stages Saturday night.

Strange, how fate works. You wait for it to arrive here, and it shows up over there. Who could have known the most important decision regarding the future of Florida's offense would be made by Phillip Fulmer?

While the Gators were in the middle of Spurrier's final season, their course was set by a coach from Tennessee in a game in Georgia while a prep player from North Carolina sat in the stands.

It was October 2002 and C.J. Leak's opportunity had arrived. Quarterback Casey Clausen was injured and Chris Leak's older brother was given the starting job against Georgia. The entire Leak family had driven from North Carolina for the grand event.

In minutes, it was over. C.J. was yanked from his starting debut after six snaps. He hadn't even thrown a pass. Georgia was up 18-0 and Fulmer decided he wanted a change. In the bleachers, Chris Leak decided on a change of his own.

It was well known Tennessee had been on the top of Chris' list of schools. He'd envisioned himself in Knoxville even before C.J.'s arrival. Once C.J. transferred from Wake Forest, the plan was for one Leak brother to hand the huddle over to the other after a short transition.

After the Georgia game, that plan was forever altered. A short time later, in an online diary, Chris insinuated Fulmer had betrayed C.J.

"Deep in my heart," Leak wrote, "I could never trust what the Tennessee coaches tell me. So I'm finished with the Vols."

Just like that, Florida had its quarterback for the future.

Leak's decision to come to Florida was Ron Zook's first _ and still greatest _ triumph in Gainesville.

For the Gators, Leak is the difference between hope and doubt. He is capable of carrying a team that has often fallen the past two seasons.

He was the best freshman quarterback in the nation last season and, by next year, could be the best quarterback of any class.

He appears on the way to having the career his older brother once imagined. Where once the Leak brothers figured to stand on the same sideline at Neyland Stadium, now they're not even on the same side of the ball.

Chris Leak showed up Saturday night as the key in Florida's offensive huddle. C.J. Leak was a late add to the Tennessee defense.

Naturally, it wasn't supposed to work this way. Even though Chris came along to break most of C.J.'s standards at Independence High in Charlotte, N.C., the older Leak brother was considered a top prospect himself.

C.J. is bigger. Most agree he is the better athlete. But Chris always had the makings of a quarterback. The arm, the vision, the calm.

Still, even after the debacle in Georgia, there was hope C.J. could salvage his career. Clausen had moved on and the door supposedly was open for Leak to finish his career as Vols quarterback.

Instead, he was unable to beat out freshmen Brent Schaeffer and Erik Ainge. Even Clausen's brother Rick moved ahead of Leak.

By the time his senior season began, C.J. was moved to the secondary. For Saturday's game, he was listed as a tight end, but he worked out in pregame with linebackers. He was not listed on the depth chart at any position.

The brothers kept their distance before Saturday's game. Each stayed on his own side of the field during warmups.

The quarterback who never really got a chance.

And the quarterback who never intends to forget it.