KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The plan, Princeton Fant said with a chuckle, was for him and LaVergne High School teammate Maleik Gray to commit to Tennessee together last Saturday.
As usual, Gray apparently made it a competition, and the star safety committed to Tennessee six days early.
“Me and Maleik go back real far, back in elementary school and middle school we were first competing,” said Fant, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound receiver. “I used to go to Smyrna and then I came over to LaVergne in ninth grade.”
Fant is ranked the No. 17 player in Tennessee and No. 526 overall, even though he missed all of his junior season with a torn ACL.
Fant was among the eight players to verbally commit to the Vols last Saturday, when coach Butch Jones set a spring football recruiting record of sorts.
Fant’s healthy spring football session, which included two live scrimmages, piqued programs’ interest in him once again.
Jones already had one advantage over all of the other programs that offered scholarships to Fant, a list that included LSU, Miami (Fla.), Louisville, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Illinois and Kentucky.
“Tennessee was my first offer, and out of everyone, they showed me the most love,” Fant said. “Even when I got injured, they still kept that scholarship offer out there. They’ve been with me the whole time.”
Fant said he wanted to return to play at the end of last season for LaVergne in the high school playoffs.
“The injury happened in April (2015) and I had surgery in May, but the rehab went really well and I could have played at the end of last year,” Fant said. “I’m not sure my coach would have let me come back then, but I played spring ball and everybody said I was hitting hard as well as catching the ball.”
Fant said in addition to playing receiver, he’ll play defensive back and return kicks and punts.
The battles with Gray — the highest-rated defensive player in Tennessee — will also continue.
“We rough each other all the time, I’ll play defense and he’ll play receiver, and then we’ll switch,” Fant said. “Maleik has always given me motivation, and I think we make each other better every day.”