Georgia athlete catches Vols' eye

A fast-rising athlete with big upside received a Tennessee offer Monday.

Tennessee defensive backs coach Willie Martinez paid Arkeem Byrd a visit Monday, and it wasn't just to catch up. The third-year Vols assistant coach has been actively recruiting Byrd, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound running back out of Savannah, Georgia, for weeks and wanted to personally extend to him a scholarship invitation. 

Needless to say, the class of 2016 athlete was a little more than happy at the offer.

"I was fired up," Byrd told InsideTennessee of his visit from Martinez. "When they first told me I was getting a full scholarship at Tennessee, the type of person I have the opportunity to play for in coach Martinez and all them — I don't know them that well just yet — but it was great." 

Listed as a running back in the Scout network, Byrd is being recruited by Martinez and Tennessee to play safety at the next level. 

"He just talked about how he has an eye for recruiting," Byrd said. "He could just see by the way I run the ball that I could be a good defensive back, just by my change of direction ... like, the explosion. You've got to be an explosive player on defense. The instincts — I can make a move real quick, find the corner. You have to have instinc to play defense, so basically, everything he sees in me in my highlight tape, the small little details, he liked about it." 

The Vols had their eye on the Jenkins High School standout as he quietly attained more than 10 offers from programs around the country. Byrd passed both the on-field and character eye tests from Martinez, who pulled the trigger Monday.

"He's been really getting on me, asking around about me before he even started talking to me," Byrd said."Before he recruited me he wanted to see what kind of guy he was recruiting. Then he started recruiting me. It just went from there." 

Byrd is also being courted by Georgia Tech, Minnesota, Wake Forest and a host of Group of Five FBS schools. The Peach State native hasn't ruled out any of them as he continues to learn about his offers and sort out his growing list.

"It's kind of hard to say, because I have so many offers," he said of his favorites. "I'm still learning about these schools, so I don't want to, like, knock them off, because I'm still learning about them." 

The two-way athlete has never seen Tennessee's campus, but that will change Jan. 15 when he makes the trip up for an official visit. Byrd doesn't know where he'll take his remaining four officials, but does know he wants a program where he fits in both in the locker room and on the field.

"I want to see if I can fit in there socially," Byrd told IT. "(I want) to like the atmosphere. Could I see myself at the university for four years if I want to stay for four years at the college level? I just want to be comfortable."

Managing editor Danny Parker contributed to this story.


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