Even early in his recruitment, Elijah Conliffe has a pair of leaders for his services.
“It would probably be Penn State and Tennessee,” the three-star defensive end from Hampton (Va.) High School told SEC Country.
When asked what Conliffe liked about the Vols, a certain player came to mind. Conliffe wants to pursue aerospace engineering like Tennessee starting quarterback Joshua Dobbs.
“I really like space,” the 6-foot-5, 278-pound prospect said. “Why not try to make something to go in space?”
Conliffe is willing to admit the recruiting process is a bit overwhelming. However, it’s one he’s enjoying. He is rated as the No. 13 strongside defensive end in the country and the No. 15 player in Virginia, according to the 247sports composite rankings.
“It’s a really great experience,” he said. “There wasn’t always a time when Tennessee and big schools were looking at me.”
They clearly are now. Conliffe has 13 scholarship offers. Some of the most notable are from Tennessee, N.C. State, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Maryland, Iowa and Penn State. Conliffe never thought he was very good at football until he stepped onto the field as a freshman and landed a starting job as a sophomore.
“I didn’t expect I was going anywhere with football,” Conliffe said before he started performing well. “Well, I might as well keep with this. Then my 10th-grade year, I started. Then stuff started to happen.”
Virginia got the ball rolling. The Cavaliers were the first to offer Conliffe a scholarship.
“When I first got it I was excited, but I didn’t know how to show it,” he said. “It was an unreal experience. Everyone told me it was going to get better.”
As important as the Virginia offer was, Tennessee carried as much weight.
“It was big,” Conliffe said.
Conliffe remembers vividly when he got the text from the Vols in January to call him. It was just after a bad track meet in which he didn’t meet his goals. Conliffe is used to performing well in the shot put. His best is more than 41 feet. He didn’t match that and was a bit sullen before he called Tennessee.
“When I called (the Vols coach) said ‘You called with bad news but I’ve got good news for you’,” Conliffe said. “That’s when my heart dropped. He said you have an offer from the University of Tennessee. It was an amazing feeling.”
Conliffe has trouble believing it, but his recruitment is launching faster than a rocket he hopes to eventually design.