After pulling in three commitments in as many days earlier this week, the Volunteers reeled in the biggest target of them all Thursday — Jalen Hurd.
"I've kind of known for a couple weeks now," Hurd told InsideTennessee. "I just feel like this is the right time, and I just wanted to go ahead and commit and start recruiting this upcoming class. It's just amazing."
Even coming in from Cincinnati barely three months ago, it didn't take coach Butch Jones long to identify Hurd's talent and importance to Rocky Top. Jones quickly got to work selling the Hendersonville, Tenn., native on being the bell cow for coach Mike Bajakian's offense. That work paid off Thursday.
"I could tell that (Jones) was just super excited. He was about to come out of his shoes," Hurd said.
The FOX Sports NEXT No. 7 running back in the nation on board in mid-March rather than the week of National Signing Day gives Jones a giant cog toward building the future roster of the Orange & White.
"Coach said to me that if UT does not have the top player in the state right now, then why would anyone else want to come. So, that's a good example, and I'm hoping that if everyone sees that everybody in the mid-state or state of Tennessee wants to come to UT, then everyone else will jump on board."
It was evident after the U.S. Army All-American tripped to Knoxville with his mother, step-dad and grandfather back on Feb. 16 that he really enjoyed himself and his perception of the direction Tennessee's program was heading had changed.
"I was very, very impressed with what I saw. I built a great relationship with all the coaches and that's my reason why," he said.
Hurd is a 6-foot-3, 225-pound bottle of thunder and lightning. In spite of dealing with a torn labrum eight games his junior year, he set a state single-season rushing record, galloping for 3.357 yards and 43 touchdowns.
The reigning TSSAA Class AAA Mr. Football Back of the Year joins slot receiver Vic Wharton, offensive lineman Coleman Thomas, defensive back Todd Kelly Jr. and athlete Neiko Creamer as Vol pledges for the Class of 2014.
"Todd just called me and he was just sitting there getting hype on the phone. It was hilarious," said Hurd, who posed for pictures in a Vol jersey alongside Kelly Jr. after a junior day earlier this winter.
Behind Hurd's 394 rushing yards and seven TDs, Beech took down Columbia Central 56-35 for the 2012 TSSAA Class 5A state championship. The Buccaneers went 15-0 and the team received their rings for their efforts in February.
Hurd still plans to visit The Hill on Saturday for family day with the current team and former players. He also is on track to graduate in December and begin his career as a Vol in January.
Knowing the thirst of Big Orange Country to get back to the elite of the Southeastern Conference and as someone who grew up a UT fan, Hurd already knows that rockstar status awaits him.
"I'm on my way to school right now," Hurd said. "It's going to be insane."
For a flashback to InsideTennessee's video interview with Hurd after his state championship game, click play on the video below: