KNOXVILLE (WBIR) - Performed at heights of up to 33 feet, diving is a sport that requires a high level of focus.
It's high risk, high reward.
"I like adrenaline," said Vols redshirt sophomore Mauricio Robles. "That feeling when you're falling in the air. You feel like you're flying."
Robles is from Monterrey, Mexico. He had success at the international level as a youth. UT Coach Dave Parrington signed him sight unseen.
"I followed the results and he won all three boards," said Parrington. "So I called my friend Manuel, and I said, we want him."
Parrington's gamble paid off. Mauricio, who spoke no English when he arrived, won the SEC championship in platform diving his freshman year.
"I wasn't expecting anything," Robles said. "I wanted to do my best and it came and it was great."
Mauricio was poised to get back to his winning ways last season. But that focus escaped for a split second.
"I wasn't focusing during the dives," he said, "so I think that was the reason why I had the accident."Parrington recalled: "I remember it very well. Probably one of the scariest days I've ever encountered as a coach."
Mauricio was performing an inward 2 1/2 at practice.
They say in most sports it's the inches that make the difference. Couldn't be truer in diving.
"When I was doing my second somersault I bumped my head on the platform," Robles said. "There was blood everywhere."
Parrington added: "A lot of blood, really, really scary situation. Almost scalped himself right there."
I thought about just going back to Mexico," he said. "And leave diving."
Twenty-two staples were required to close the wound.
But in an individual sport, it was his team that kept Mauricio Robles in Knoxville.
"After all the support they've showed to me," Robles said. "I knew I had to stay and just give my all."
He's set several personal bests this year. and is back in the SEC Championships this week
"His mental toughness and tenacity is above and beyond," Parrington said. "He made up his mind he was going to come back stronger than ever."
Mauricio admits he still gets nervous about the accident. But he knows he belongs up here -- high above the water.
"Keep diving," he said, "and do what I love the most."