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James Brown got the feeling.
Apparently Tennessee did, too.
On Sunday, the Florida tight end, who converted from quarterback this season, released a recent a highlight tape, quickly earning looks from several blue-blood programs. Florida, Florida State and Auburn all called, but the Volunteers extended a scholarship offer.
— James Brown (@Fieldgeneral17) October 31, 2016
Brown immediately jumped at the opportunity.
Less than 30 minutes after the offer, the 6-foot-4, 218-pound prospect became Tennessee’s 26th commit in the Class of 2017.
“Tennessee, I felt wanted from the beginning. They didn’t sugar coat anything. They kept it honest with me,” Brown told me.
“When I was playing quarterback, they were recruiting me for another position. They wanted to see me at tight end. Other schools were sugar coating me. I finally made the move. Put the work in and everything clicked. They stayed there the whole way. They’ve been my dream school since I was a little kid. I always wanted that offer. Then when it finally came through, it was a no brainer.”
The Jones (Fla.) High product held offers from Marshall, Massachusetts, Florida A&M, Florida International and Gardner-Webb, but Brown’s recruitment truly blew up over the weekend after schools got a chance to see his recent transition to tight end.
Brown has played quarterback since pee wee, but coaches, including Tennessee staffers, have been dangling the idea of switching to tight end for more than six months.
“Before our spring game, Coach (Robert) Gillespie came down to talk to (Florida State commit) Stacy Kirby, our defense end. He saw me and said, ‘We like your athleticism. We’d like to see you at tight end,’” Brown recalled.
“He asked me if I played any other positions, and I told him, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Well would you ever think about playing tight end? I told him, ‘No.’ again. It turns out, I was expecting them to just move on. But then when I did switch to tight end, (Tennessee) was just right there. Coach Gillespie kept the radar out of me. He watched my film after our last regular season game and then he sent the offer out.”
Brown figured something interesting was brewing Sunday, as Tennessee coaches began texting his head coach, and then multiple Volunteers staffers followed him on Twitter.
Around 9 p.m., his coach delivered the good news.
“It was a no-brainer. They weren’t really expecting me to commit, but once I committed it was a done deal and we all started talking and having a good time,” Brown said.
“(Tennessee) was just that school that I aimed for. I used to watch them on TV with my uncle. Just watching college football. It was that offer that I was like, ‘I’d love to go play there.’ It’s a big school. The SEC. It’s easy to talk about. It’s easy to dream about. But when they offered, it was just really like, I had to take this opportunity.”
Brown, who plans to weigh around 225 before enrolling at Tennessee, said the transition to tight end hasn’t been easy, but he’s gradually grown into the position. On Friday, Brown hauled in two touchdowns in a 41-13 win. He has 10 scores on the season, 4 receiving.
“I was always one of the biggest guys on the field,” he explained.
“It was a big transition going into this year because I’ve been so used to avoiding contact and running out of bounds as a quarterback.
“So (initially) I would get big yards but I wouldn’t finish plays and go run (tacklers) over. But toward the end of the season, I started getting used to it and competing for contact and everything started working in my favor.”
The unranked prospect believes he’ll be a good fit in Tennessee’s spread scheme, saying that coach Larry Scott told him he “just what he was looking for.”
“Coach Scott, he told that he was looking for a tight end that wasn’t too big and sluggish. Medium size, strong, able to block on the perimeter but have speed around the edges. He told me I met that role perfectly,” Brown said.
Depending on his team’s playoffs, Brown could take an official visit to Tennessee as soon at this weekend. He isn’t interested in hearing from any other schools, either.
“I’m solidly committed to Tennessee. They gave me a chance. They believed in me.”