KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tangie Warrior sat through meetings with Tennessee football coach Butch Jones and then-Vols administrative support staff members for hours on Monday, but it still hasn’t fully set in that her son, Nigel, has really moved on to college.
“It felt very different dropping Nigel off, but it’s refreshing for him and he’s excited,” Tangie Warrior said on Tuesday. “We went to the store and got his room set up and decorated just the way he likes it. Nigel is excited to be free and on his own. It just hasn’t really hit me yet.”
Nigel Warrior, a standout defensive back in Tennessee’s 2016 signing class, is rooming with fellow 2016 DB recruit Baylen Buchanan. The two were teammates at Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee, Ga., last season.
Besides their high school careers, the players also share the unique background of having fathers who played in the NFL.
Baylen is the son of former NFL All-Pro defensive back Ray Buchanan, while Nigel’s father is former Tennessee All-American and NFL All-Pro defensive back Dale Carter.
Nigel Warrior grew up with his mother, but Dale Carter kept close tabs on his son, and Tangie said Nigel spent summers with him.
Nigel Warrior said his father provided him with sage advice throughout his career, helping him to become a better football player and person.
“He has seen everything I’ve done, and at the end of the days or weeks he saw me play, when the doors were closed, we’d go over it and talk about things,” Nigel Warrior said last Thursday. “He helped me understand the things I was doing wrong, and he’s smart about everything, because he has been there and done it.”
Dale Carter did not, however, attempt to influence his son’s choice of schools — other than trips to Neyland Stadium to cheer for the Vols, which Nigel first remembers at “8 or 9” years old.
“Dale has always been in the background keeping up with what’s going on, and he knew all the offers that were coming in for Nigel,” Tangie Warrior said. “But he wanted Nigel to make his own decision, and he didn’t want to get in the way. Dale is all Tennessee and a true Vol, but he never tried to influence Nigel.”
Tangie Warrior, however, did influence Nigel Warrior to change high schools his junior year, from Westlake to Peachtree Ridge.
Westlake is known most recently for producing such NFL stars as Cam Newton and Adam “Pacman” Jones, but Tangie wanted her son to be as prepared as possible for the academic and social challenges ahead at Tennessee.
“Nigel needed to be challenged more, and transferring him to a new school was a way to prepare him for college,” Tangie said. “He was already successful athletically, and he was an academic success at Westlake, so the move grounded him in a way that would prepare him for the next level.
“In Nigel’s case, his dad’s name was already out there, and then Nick Saban came to the school to see him, for some people it was like he had already made it.”
Nigel Warrior comes to Tennessee as the nation’s No. 4-rated safety and No. 58 player overall, but he said there are plenty of things for him to work on.
“I need to get better at everything, but specifically, I need to get better at breaking down the ball carrier,” said Warrior, who at 6-foot-1, 195 pounds has clocked a 4.54-second time in the 40-yard dash.
“I’m solid from sideline to sideline, reading keys and keeping my eyes in the backfield, but I need to get better at anticipating the ball carrier’s moves.
“Most of it is instincts, but you have to know your opponent. When you watch film, you look for the little things, because the little things become the big things.”
The Tennessee 2016 signees had their physicals on Tuesday morning, with classes beginning on Wednesday and strength and conditioning starting up on Thursday.
“It’s an exciting time in our football program,” Jones said Tuesday in Destin, Fla. “Sunday we welcomed most of our signees and their parents to campus … making sure they understand the standards and expectations.
“I told them it’s been a very, very short period of time where we came in and rebuilt the program, and now they’re walking into an established football program and making sure they understand what’s required of them in the classroom, in the community, (and) in the Anderson Training Center.”
Having Dale Carter as his father, it’s a good bet Nigel Warrior is aware and ready to handle the highest expectations Jones’ and his still relatively new staff put forth.
All ratings are from the 247Sports composite rankings unless otherwise noted