Maleik Gray isn’t shy about what he’ll bring to Tennessee next fall.
“Hype, leadership and hopefully a national championship,” Gray told SEC Country.
The 4-star safety from LaVergne (Tenn.) is the crown jewel of the Volunteers 2017 recruiting class, and the 6-foot-2, 187-pound prospect was Tennessee’s lone commit to attend The Opening — Nike’s premier summer camp featuring more than 160 of the top football prospects in the nation.
Nonetheless, Gray represented Big Orange nicely in Beaverton, Ore., as the top-100 prospect dominated testing in between posting for pictures with star running backs Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott and LSU’s Leonard Fournette.
The elite athlete, who plays linebacker and receiver in high school but will transition to safety at Tennessee, recorded a 4.44-second 40-yard dash, a 39.5-inch vertical jump and a 4.07-second agility run, finishing in the 99th percentile nationally among all 2017 prospects tested by Nike.
?? look at the 40 pic.twitter.com/bxXcbIuUgF
— Maleik Gray (@GrayMaleik) July 8, 2016
His total score of 125.67 ranked No. 23 overall at The Opening Finals.
“I’m glad to be out here competing with the best of the best,” Gray said. “Meeting new guys and be around coaches who’ve been there and done that and been in the league. It’s just been a great atmosphere.”
Gray verbally committed to Tennessee on June 12 and instantly became the Vols highest-rated pledge in their 2017 class. Now he wants to be the linchpin of the nation’s 11th ranked class and help recruit other blue-chip targets.
“I want to help build the program and help them recruit in-state kids,” Gray said. “Let’s do something new and get back to the old Tennessee.”
While Gray is still hearing regularly from Florida State and Alabama, he repeatedly called Tennessee “home,” saying, “The players and the coaches welcoming me to the university, it just felt like home from the get-go. They’ve been there from the start. I love the facilities. The facilities are amazing. Academics, too. It just feels like home honestly.”
Gray hasn’t completely closed his recruitment though, and still plans to take all five official visits — with trips to Tennessee, FSU and Alabama on the docket. Just like everyone else in the country, he’s eager to see how the Vols perform in 2016.
“I’m curious myself,” Gray said. “They return 18 out of 22 starters, so I feel like they should have a pretty good season. … I feel like they’re on the rise.”
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
Jesse Simonton covers Tennessee football and recruiting for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and SECCountry.com