Head of the class

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Speaking softly into the microphone, but grinning and obviously very happy, Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson announced on Wednesday his intent to play the next two years at the University of Tennessee.

Seated at a table with his coach, Rion Rhoades, and the college's sports information director, Steve Carpenter, the 6-foot-4, 211-pound sophomore from Rock Hill, S.C., made a short statement, then turned it over to Rhoades and Carpenter.

Later, Patterson explained how he chose UT over Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss and Auburn, all of whom had recruited him.

First, it was the UT coaches, he said. During the recruiting process, he got to know them and "they always kept straight up with me," he said.

"When they came out to visit me, I knew that's where I needed to be. I feel like I'm getting along with them pretty good. Tennessee was always in my list, from day one."

On the other hand, LSU was "very close," he said. But the Vols' receiving corps — including Justin Hunter, Da'Rick Rogers and Tyler Bray — presented a strong attraction.

"They already got good receivers. Some schools don't. If I went there (where good receivers were scarce), they'd be double-teaming me. I wouldn't be able to make a play."

UT appealed to him for personal reasons, as well: It is not that far from his home in South Carolina.

"My family wanted me to go to UT," he said. "They want to come and see me play."

For the past two years, Patterson has thrilled football fans in Hutchinson with his blazing speed, leaping catches and frequent trips to the end zone. His talents extended to kickoff returns, where he averaged 51 yards per return this season, taking three returns all the way for touchdowns. This season, Patterson caught a career-high 61 passes for 924 yards in helping the Salt City Bowl champion Blue Dragons to a 9-3 record.

Asked what he found to be the most fun — catching passes in the end zone, or running back kickoffs, Patterson said he liked kickoffs best.

"You get seen better," he said.

The UT coaches, he said, are talking about using him both as a receiver and a kickoff return artist.

"They're talking about some kickoffs," he said. "I get to have that."

Watching a kickoff coming towards him is thrilling, he said, when asked what it was like. "When the ball is in the air, I just got to go get it. I feel like I got to go score. I make a couple guys miss and get a good block, then I just take it to the house."

Patterson accounted for 1,686 yards of all-purpose offense this season and averaged 17.6 yards every time he touched the football. He broke 200 all-purpose yards three times this season. Patterson was also been a threat running the ball with 379 yards on just 32 carries (11.8 yards per rush).

There were times during the past two seasons when Hutchinson fans had to wonder if he could survive his style of playing without getting hurt. He appears to be amazingly strong, as he sometimes was used to run the ball up the middle of the field, breaking tackles like a fullback and moving piles of defenders to churn out more yardage. Asked if he had sustained any significant injuries during the past two seasons, he said, "You got to play through it. Coach don't like you showing any weakness."

Patterson is a five-star player, according to Scout.com, and he is widely considered by all recruiting services to be the top-ranked junior college player in the country.

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