Chase Hayden isn’t from Knoxville, yet he readily admits the city already feels like home to him. The running back from Collierville, Tennessee, visited over the weekend for one of the Vols’ summer camps and raved about his experience with the coaching staff.
“I just had a good time,” Hayden said. “I had a great time learning from coach Gillespie, just like seeing what I could do better and him giving me pointers for what I need to work on. I had a great time down here.”
Being from Tennessee isn’t the only reason why the Vols have a special place in Hayden’s recruitment process. His father, Aaron Hayden, was a running back on Rocky Top, and the Vols were the first school to extend him a scholarship offer.
This is the second time the class of 2017 prospect ventured to Knoxville for a camp, but it was his first as a running back. Hayden came to showcase his talent as a defensive back last season. This time, he worked with Tennessee running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Robert Gillespie in the backfield and appreciated Gillespie’s candid coaching style.
Gillespie gave his potential future running back pointers on ball security and holding the pigskin high and tight — something Hayden valued as he works to improve his game heading into his junior season at St. George’s Independent School.
“I liked how he was coaching,” Hayden said. “He gets on you and you could tell he’s going to make you better the way he gets on you.”
The 5-10, 175-pound back has offers from both Tennessee and Vanderbilt to go along with interest from Notre Dame, Florida State, Mississippi State, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Auburn and Duke. Hayden plans on visiting Notre Dame June 19, and wants to take a look at Alabama in July.
But Tennessee’s early start on Hayden has put them at the forefront of his recruitment right now. The running back, who rushed for 1,449 yards and 14 touchdowns last season en route to becoming a TSSAA Division II Class A Mr. Football Back of the Year finalist, was impressed with the school’s facilities and coaches.
To him, it felt like a place he never left.
“It feels like home,” Hayden said. “I come up here, like, I’ve pretty much seen everything. I feel like I just know pretty much.”Managing editor Danny Parker contributed to this report.