Recruiting Vol legacies is uncertain business

Marvin Westwestwords

This is old news. Tennessee has offered a football scholarship to Dallan Hayden, 5-11 and 176, sophomore at Christian Brothers High in Memphis.


The offer arrived last summer, before the world knew about him, before he started 10 games as a freshman defensive back.

Indeed, Jeremy Pruitt had a head start. Tennessee had inside information. Dallan is the second son of ex-Vol Aaron Hayden and former UT cheerleader ChaToya Hayden. The first son plays at Arkansas.

Aaron, running back and receiver, gained more than 2,000 yards in his years (1991-94) with the Volunteers. He played four more in the NFL.

That all adds up to make Dallan very important. He is a so-called football legacy. Capable sons of former Vols are in demand. Alas, they run on a two-way street, some here, some there. Some make it big. Some don’t.

That sons might follow their fathers seems logical. Peyton didn’t. Of immediate interest are some who did.

Nigel Warrior, a main man in the current Volunteer secondary, is the son of former Vol Dale Carter. Nigel has pro potential. Dale had tremendous talent, was a Tennessee all-American, an NFL star who signed two massive contracts, endured troubled times and tumbled into bankruptcy. He is, today, said to be a much-improved man.

Jackson Lampley, 6-4 and 300, will be a freshman offensive lineman this fall. But for the grace of God, he would be an Auburn Tiger. He was going that way in November and December of 2017. He was on the lovely plains the day Auburn upset Alabama. He helped with the traditional celebratory spread of toilet paper on Toomer’s Corner.

Lampley’s father, Brad, Vol lineman during the Manning era, understood the enthusiasm. Tennessee was deep in a dilemma. Butch Jones had been fired. Athletics director John Currie was skating around on thin ice.

The father, a wise man, a Nashville attorney, a former University of Tennessee trustee, asked the son if he thought he should delay his commitment and meet the new coach. Brad was almost certain the Vols would eventually find one.

Jackson listened. He saw Pruitt as genuine. Tennessee again felt like home. Young Lampley had been to Neyland Stadium so many times, he felt he had grown up there.

Cooper Mays, 6-2 and 275 senior center at Catholic High, son of ex-Vol Kevin Mays, all-SEC guard in 1994, is committed to Tennessee for next year. There are fans who find that unbelievable. Big brother Cade was pledged to the Vols but changed his mind, signed with Georgia and played well as a freshman.

Unkind things were said to and about the Mays family. It would have been easy for Cooper to just line up behind Cade. Georgia served good barbecue when he visited. Georgia had the inside edge.

Cooper decided to consider what Tennessee had to say. Jeremy showed no animosity about what had happened in the big brother deal. The coach said the recruitment of Cooper was an entirely different challenge.

Cooper Mays discovered he was his own man, no longer just a little brother with a charted course to follow. Go Vols!

In many cases, following footsteps is what legacy Vols are all about. There are some terrific examples. Al Rotella was a tough Tennessee tackle in the 1940s. His son Jamie was an all-American linebacker and captain in 1972. He had 413 career tackles.

Steve DeLong was an all-American middle guard and Outland Trophy recipient in 1964. Son Keith was an all-American linebacker in 1988. John Majors said “They don’t come any better.”

James Berry was a starting running back at Tennessee and a captain on the 1981 team. Son Eric became a Tennessee all-American in 2008-09. He set records for interceptions and return yardage. He won the Jim Thorpe Award.

Another Berry boy, Evan, became an all-American in 2015. He led the nation in kickoff return average. He tied Willie Gault’s record with three KO touchdowns.

Another Berry boy, twin Elliott, played well for the Vols but had a tough act to follow.

So it was with the famous fourth-down family, the punting Colquitts. Craig was all-SEC in 1976-77. Son Dustin won all-America honors in 2003. He led the SEC with a 45.9 average. Son Britton wasn’t too bad. He was all-SEC in 2006. His average was 44.9.

If you are keeping score, cousin Jimmy had the best season of all, 46.9 in 1982.

Tennessee football fathers and sons of recent vintage include Todd Kelly Sr. and Todd Jr.; Reggie McKenzie and son Kahlil; and Bill Bates and son Dillon. Longer ago were John and John Paty; Ralph and Steve Chancey; Norbert and Bert Ackermann; Fuad Reveiz and sons Nick and Shane; Bobby and Benson Scott; Jack Stroud and son Jack (who died in surgery as a freshman).

Carl Johnson and sons Greg and Neil; grandfather Sam Bartholomew and grandson Will; Tommy and Tommy Bronson; and maybe others I should not have forgotten.

Some of the sons of famous Tennessee football fathers went elsewhere – but not always by choice.

Tennessee did not recruit Richmond Flowers’ sons. Richmond III had very strong numbers as a Duke receiver and played and coached in the NFL.

Butch Jones thought JJ McCleskey’s son was too little. Jalen caught 73 passes for 812 yards and seven touchdowns for Oklahoma State in 2016.

Tee Martin’s son Amari Rodgers chose Clemson. I think I understand that decision.

Another crisis is developing. Navy Shuler, son of the legendary Heath Shuler, has committed to Appalachian State. As a junior at Christ School in Arden, N.C., Navy completed 70.2 per cent of his passes for 4,112 yards and 44 touchdowns. His father is his coach.

Marvin West invites reader remarks or questions. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com.

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