Former Vols Share Memories, Thoughts On Signing Day
Feb. 1, 2017

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Several VFL shared in the excitement of 2017 National Signing Day on Wednesday, joining the live broadcast of #EL17E: Tennessee Signing Day Presented by First Tennessee Bank in person, via video chat or on the phone.

Here is what the former Tennessee football players had to say about National Signing Day and the newest additions to the Big Orange family.

Erik Ainge

Tennessee Quarterback from 2004-07)

(On the importance of being a midterm enrollee)
"It's not just about getting in the strength and conditioning program or getting here and learning the X's and O's; it's about leaving the nest. You leave for school, become acclimated and start the process of getting new added responsibilities of a young adult."

(On getting recruits who will continue developing in college)
"You only need a select group of guys in each class who come in and are expected to contribute. If you are relying on a too many guys to come in and be impact players, then you don't have the kind of depth you want in your program. You go find the guys who fit what you want and then build them up for two, three or four years down the road to what you want for a program or a university. That is what we have seen from this class so far."

Peyton Manning

Tennessee Quarterback from 1994-97

(On being selected for the College Football Hall of Fame and the Louisiana players in UT's 2017 signing class)
"I am certainly very honored by the College (Football) Hall of Fame, and to join the very distinguished list of great Tennessee football players and coaches that are members of the Hall of Fame. Hey, Louisiana has great talent. We all know that. You have two good players coming out of the state of Louisiana, for sure. That's a guarantee."

(On the specific details of his signing day)
"Well, it's been 23 years ago, now. It has certainly changed quite a bit, from the way it is now. There was not, certainly, anything like this, that you're having, or the attention that was taking place on each individual, on a recruit's commitment, and signing. But, I remember the day I announced where I was going. It was a little bit before signing day, and that probably got a little more attention. There were two great quarterbacks out of Louisiana that year, myself and Josh Booty. There was a lot of speculation. Josh (Booty), of course, went to LSU, and he committed just a couple of days before me. I committed to Tennessee, called a press conference. I remember coming back from my visit to the University of Florida, and the scrutiny was kind of picking up. I checked into a hotel with my dad. I skipped a couple of days of school. I just needed some quiet time to kind of digest things. I really thought I was going to Tennessee, since my visit. I just really wanted a few days to process things. So, I played hooky, checked into a hotel, and then committed a couple of days later. When I signed, I just did it right after a nine o'clock class. My school had a little ceremony, and there was student in my class who was going to play volleyball at college. So, she and I signed together. I'm pretty sure I was in that 10 o'clock class later, after that."

(On why he picked Tennessee years ago)
"Well, it was certainly a new place for me. I'd never been to a Tennessee game, and I really didn't know a lot of people up there. I think everybody just assumed I was going to go to Ole Miss. I really think certain schools, maybe, didn't recruit me as hard, because they just thought that was just a given, that I was going to go to Ole Miss, where my dad went. My dad told me, as all the recruiting process started, 'Son, you're 18 years old. You can go where you want to go. I'll answer any questions for you.' So, I appreciated my dad's advice, and letting me making my own decision. Coach (David) Cutcliffe started recruiting me. Coach Randy Sanders, who's now down at Florida State, started recruiting me, and then Coach (Phillip) Fulmer. They came to my house in December. We had a good visit. I was intrigued by the opportunity to possibly be a three-year starter at Tennessee. Heath Shuler was just about to turn pro early. There was an opportunity, probably, to possibly play for three years. I ended up playing eight games, my freshman year, due to the injuries that we had that year. (Phillip) Fulmer and I hit it off. (David) Cutcliffe and I hit it off. I had a great visit to Knoxville. It was an ice storm. You really couldn't get around. You couldn't really get a great grasp of what the stadium was. I really think it depended a lot on the people there. The students, the coaches, the academic folks, some of the fans that were kind of around. I remember just saying, 'If this football thing doesn't work out for me, could I be happy in this school?' My brother, Cooper, had a neck injury his freshman year at Ole Miss. Ole Miss was the right place for him. He was happy without football. That's really why everybody should make that decision. Can you be happy in the school, if football doesn't work out, because of the people around you? I can say that about the University of Tennessee, one of the greatest decisions I ever made. Of course, staying my senior year, when I had a chance to turn pro early, would probably be the first pick. That just shows how much I love the University of Tennessee. I didn't want to be 50 years old, and wonder what my senior year of college would've been like. I wanted one more year to ensure some friendships and relationships. That's also one of the best decisions I ever made."

Deon Grant

(On what he remembers about his signing day)
"Man, signing day, (I remember) making a lot of Georgia people mad. That's what I remember. I tease with them, more so, because I think I had a UGA hat on signing day, and I took it off right before I signed, then I put a Tennessee hat on. I think that's what I remember more than anything, making a lot of Georgia people mad."

(On when he knew he was going to be a Vol)
"Was it that game (Tennessee vs Florida, 1996) that I knew it? I think so. It was just some of the stuff Jamal Lewis and I were talking about. How he was just so sold on changing that whole culture at UT, when it came to us beating Florida. At that time, we didn't like Florida. Georgia and Florida was a big rivalry in high school, with the All-American game. We just wanted to change the whole culture, as far as Tennessee having the opportunity to beat them (Florida) while we were there."

Trey Teague

Tennessee Offensive Lineman from 1994-97

(On midterm enrollee and ESPN No. 1 overall recruit Trey Smith)
"When you see someone like Trey Smith, he checks a lot more of the boxes then anyone else. I think it's exciting when you're dealing with someone who is focused on getting better. Tennessee is very fortunate to get someone like Trey. I know I was a little excited personally."

"It's great to see someone who says 'let me do what I can for this team.' I always had that approach and it benefited me in the long run. I know Trey and I know what kind of character he has and I know his first priority is going to be to help Tennessee in any way he can."

Charles Davis

Tennessee Defensive Back from 1982-86

(On what the 2017 NFL Draft will say about Tennessee as a program)
"In a lot of ways, it takes us back to when we were in school. I know people always get on guys about re-living their days and what have you. Obviously, I was never an NFL-ready guy. I wasn't talented enough. But when you talked about Tennessee kids - and I got this from scouts all the way through and I got it in the years beyond - they knew how to practice and they were prepared to play in the NFL among the best that we had. We had a lot of guys that ended up having excellent careers. Both McKenzie brothers, Reggie and Raleigh. Reggie is now the GM of the Oakland Raiders and Raleigh is working for him. They had tremendous careers. They weren't highly-touted coming out of school, but they knew how to work, they knew how to practice, they knew how to play the game and they understood the game."

Jamal Lewis

Tennessee Running Back from 1998-2000

(On his signing day moment)
"I just remember being happy to start a new beginning and go play out my dreams. I was going to Tennessee, I knew I was going there and I was excited about getting up there and getting the ball rolling and going to get with the team."





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