One month later, Tennessee’s “Orange Carpet Day” remains unforgettable to Solon Page III.
And that DJ on the golf course announcing a flurry of his future teammates.
The Volunteers gained an astounding eight verbal pledges on a single afternoon in June, as Page, a 3-star linebacker from Pell (Ga.) High who committed during Tennessee’s spring game in March, watched in awe as the surreal event unfolded.
“I actually ended up being the very first one to walk down along the orange carpet. Me and my mom,” Page said.
“They had lights going, the music was bumping and then all of a sudden the DJ (yelled), ‘Coming down the Orange Carpet today, 2017 linebacker commit SOLON PAGE III.’ ”
“It was crazy.”
“Crazy” is a common refrain from that weekend. “Awesome” is too.
A relaxing day full burgers and games quickly turned into Tennessee’s own pledge party.
— Bob Shoop (@UTCoachBobShoop) June 18, 2016
First, 3-star defensive end Tre Lawson (North Augusta, S.C.) committed, quickly followed by 3-star wideout Princeton Fant (LaVergne, Tenn.). Then coach Butch Jones started clearing the checkerboard.
“We we’re playing a hole-in-one contest at the golf course and that’s when we started to get a whole bunch of commits — just out of nowhere,” Page said.
“We’re playing the game and then all of a sudden just one kid had gone up to Coach (Butch Jones) and said he wanted to commit. They had speakers and music and so the DJ got on the microphone and said, ‘We got a new Vol.’
“And I was like, ‘OH YEA.’ Clapping, getting hyped and having fun. And then all of a sudden it was like a domino affect. Three other people commit, then four, five, six. I think we had eight people commit in five minutes. That’s how crazy it was.”
Offensive tackle Jordan Tucker, a 3-star prospect from Roswell (Ga.), was “feeling pretty good about Tennessee” heading into the event but he wasn’t positive he would join the commit list that day.
Then, after connecting with Vols players and watching everyone else commit, he had to pull the trigger, too.
“After a couple of the other recruits committed, I didn’t want to wait any longer. I just knew it was the time,” Tucker said.
“It was a huge family atmosphere. You felt like you just belonged there. It was awesome.”
In all, the Vols landed seven 2017 commits — Lawson, Fant, Tucker, as well as 3-star safety Theo Jackson (Nashville, Tenn.), 3-star tailback Trey Coleman (West Monroe, La.), 3-star defensive end LaTrell Bumphus (Savannah, Tenn.) and 3-star linebacker Jaquan Henderson (Covington, Ga.) — and one 2018 prospect, plucking 4-star athlete Alontae Taylor (Manchester, Tenn.) away from in-state rival Vanderbilt.
Most importantly, Jones collected four in-state commits (Fant, Jackson, Bumphus and Taylor) and showcased Tennessee’s potential to top targets like 5-star tailback Cam Akers (Clinton, Miss.) and 2018 5-star quarterback Emory Jones (Franklin, Ga.).
It was a historic haul, and Tennessee’s summer highlight laid the foundation for its recruiting momentum heading into an important 2016 season.
A weekend built on “team bonding” and “family” continues to pay dividends as well. Just 48 hours after “Orange Carpet Day” 3-star defensive end Kivon Bennett, who attended the event, committed to Tennessee over a litany of schools including Alabama (his father Cornelius Bennett’s alma mater) and Notre Dame. On Tuesday, the Vols landed Bishop Catholic High (Va.) twins Breyon and Brandon Gaddy.
Vols cornerback commit Cheyenne Labruzza, who had a blast attending ‘Orange Carpet Day,’ said the all the glamour of the event never overshadowed what Tennessee is truly all about.
“They’re not just trying to lure you in for the recruiting purposes. If they taking a liking to you, it’s truly genuine,” Labruzza said.
“You see it with the current players right now. When you walk around and you see their T-shirts and they say, “Family” on them. It’s genuine. … That was my third visit to Tennessee and usually when you go to a college or somewhere new, by the second or third visit you know everything, you know everyone. The newness kind of wares off. But at Tennessee, it was even better my third trip than my first trip.”
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
Jesse Simonton covers Tennessee football and recruiting for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and SECCountry.com