Chase Hayden couldn’t help but be in awe, even though he had seen Tennessee’s campus on countless occasions. His latest visit was just different.
Hayden was visiting Tennessee as a bona fide prospect for the Vols’ Junior Day last Saturday. He said he has long dreamed of playing for the Vols.
“It’s really special,” the running back from St. George’s Independent School (Collierville, Tenn.) told SEC Country. “It’s something you dream of, getting an offer from the University of Tennessee. I’ve been coming to games since I was like five or four years old. I was dreaming of having a chance to play football here. It’s really special. It’s crazy how time flies.”
Indeed, it wasn’t that long ago that Hayden’s father, Aaron Hayden, was a standout tailback at Tennessee in the early 1990’s.
“It’s pretty cool that my dad left a legacy here,” Chase Hayden said. “It’s kind of special to come back and see people still remember him and what he did here.”
Hayden’s tour of prospective colleges has just begun now that basketball season is over. He said he’ll visit South Carolina, Missouri, Louisville and Michigan in the coming weeks. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound prospect currently holds 10 reported scholarship offers.
“I’m just really taking it day by day,” Hayden said. “I think I’ll start cutting it down once summertime comes and pick my top schools.”
Hayden is part of a highly rated class within Tennessee’s borders. He said that is a factor — to an extent.
“It’s pretty cool the amount of in-state talent that we have, but me being in-state doesn’t automatically mean I’m going to Tennessee,” Hayden said. “If I go to Tennessee, it has to be the right fit for me.”
Hayden has a plan in mind. He’ll cut down his list of suitors before his senior season.
“I definitely think I’ll probably have three schools by summertime, three schools I’ll definitely be focused on,” he said.
Hayden said he is primarily being recruited to Tennessee by running backs coach Robert Gillespie.
“I’ve probably talked to coach Gillespie the most,” Hayden said. “We’ve built a relationship and I feel like I know him pretty well.”