Michael Sawyers pleads guilty to lesser theft charge

Matt Slovin

KNOXVILLE – Former Ensworth and University of Tennessee defensive lineman Michael Sawyers appeared in Knox County court Wednesday and entered a guilty plea on a misdemeanor theft charge.

Sawyers was originally charged with felony theft but reached a plea deal that requires him to pay $176 in restitution, in addition to court costs. He also entered into a judicial diversion program, which could allow the charge to be removed from Sawyers' record in a year.

The charge stems from a March incident in which Sawyers is accused of entering a University of Tennessee dormitory room and stealing an Xbox system and three video games. He later sent a text message to the alleged victim of the theft apologizing and offering to purchase him a new video game console, according to the Knox County Sheriff's Office.

Sawyers graduated from Ensworth in 2014 and appeared in four games for Tennessee last season. He was dismissed from the Vols program after the season for what coach Butch Jones called a violation of team and athletics department policy.

The 19-year-old Sawyers has enrolled at an out-of-state junior college and hopes to return to Division I football, according to his attorney, Keith Lee Lieberman.

"He has no reason to ever come back to Knoxville," Lieberman said. "To fight this case, it would take a couple years by the time it would come to jury trial. So I can understand why he would want to put this behind him."

Reach Matt Slovin at mslovin@tennessean.com or on Twitter @MattSlovin.