It had been many moons since Devanté Brooks spent time at his future college home of Tennessee.
The Scout three-star tight end prospect didn’t see the Volunteers compete at Neyland Stadium during the 2015 season but made an official visit to Knoxville over the weekend.
“This trip I was just able to interact with the players more, the coaches more,” said Brooks, who had not been to Rocky Top since June. “I was able to have a good sit-down with (Vols tight end commit) Austin (Pope) and (Tennessee tight ends) coach (Larry) Scott, just talking about the fundamentals of the tight end position, what we’re going to do. Overall, I just had a wonderful time.”
A double-digit number of official visitors went with family and Tennessee staffers to downtown Knoxville on Friday and to coach Butch Jones’ house on Saturday.
“It was just a great experience,” said Brooks, whose player host was freshman receiver Vincent Perry. “It was different from all the other experiences. It just made me fall in love with Tennessee a lot more. I can’t wait to sign Wednesday.
“I’ve already been set for Tennessee. This wouldn’t change my mind if it was an ‘OK’ experience because I’m gonna come here, I’m excited, I’m just ready to get here.
“I was finally able to go into the city of Knoxville. Beautiful city.
“Everybody welcomed us, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ All that good stuff. Probably the best memory I had was going to coach Jones’ house. His house is beautiful. That house is big. He’s living good, that’s for sure, he’s living good.”
Tennessee’s staff had a change at the tight end coaching position as Mark Elder departed after three years in Knoxville to be the head coach at Eastern Kentucky. In Elder’s place is Scott, who immediately got to work this winter getting to know the Scout No. 1 tight end in the District of Columbia.
“Of course it was kind of upsetting that coach Elder had left,” said Brooks, who committed back on Jan. 15, 2015. “I started building a great relationship with him but coach Scott, he’s a great guy. Like I mentioned in a different interview, we talked probably a couple hours after he was announced as the tight ends coach. He assured me that he’s going to try to earn my trust. I’m going to try to earn his trust. The relationship started right there. We talk regularly every couple days, we (direct message) each other on Twitter, every week we call at least once a week so we can talk and just keep that relationship going. He’s a great guy, can’t wait to work with him, he’s serious about what he’s doing. I believe he’s a great fit for Tennessee.”
As a Tennessee pledge, Brooks did what he could to get in the ear of recruiting targets.
“I talked to (Scout four-star cornerback) Tyler Byrd a little bit, told him this is the place to be right here,” Brooks said. “We had a 2017 wide receiver — he’s actually in Nashville — me and (Vols wide receiver commit) Corey Henderson talked to him a little bit. He told us he likes LSU, but we told him this is the place to be because LSU won’t be doing too much compared to us. We’re doing big things.”
Brooks twice tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and missed his junior and senior seasons of prep football at St. John’s College High School. He’s used his time away from the gridiron to add bulk and is now 6-feet-6, 255 pounds.
“It’s going great,” Brooks said of rehabilitation. “I was cleared by the doctor to do everything. My parents just want me to take it slow until I sign these papers and I’m officially part of Tennessee. Then I can really put pedal to the metal and really get to things. I talked to the trainers there as well. They told me to just gradually start doing more and more things until I get there.”
The game plan is to be back entirely mentally and physically healthy by July.