When Maleik Gray climbed into the vehicle alongside his mother Saturday to head out for another visit to Tennessee’s campus, he did not yet know he was going to commit to the Volunteers.
A positive feeling about the Orange & White turned into a decision to strap on the Power T and add aggression to coach Butch Jones’ defenses of the future.
“I can officially say that I’m committed to the University of Tennessee!” Gray announced on social media.
The fourth-year head man Jones didn’t see the pledge coming either.
“Coach Jones was in shock,” Gray told InsideTennessee with a smile. “My mom kinda teared up a little bit, so coach Jones did too. It was a great and happy moment!”
The 6-foot-2, 186-pounder first started hearing from Tennessee as an eighth grader and got a Vols scholarship offer as a sophomore. He chose the Big Orange over other finalists Alabama and Florida State.
Gray attended Tennessee’s STATEment Day Camp at Tennessee State University in Nashville last Sunday. He then arrived for the unofficial visit following a camp Saturday. Gray did not work out for Vols coaches at either event but did arrive with his mother Saturday night before spending time alongside fellow mid-state talent and Scout 100 running back Ty Chandler.
That look at how Tennessee runs things from Mom was the final piece in the orange-clad puzzle that opened up the Scout 100 talent’s decision.
“I was honestly waiting on my mom to come and check out the campus herself — and get her approval toward committing,” Gray said.
The La Vergne (Tenn.) High School standout and No. 44 prospect in the nation gives the Big Orange 10 verbal commits for the 2017 class with the Vols ranking No. 19 nationally by Scout
At The Opening Columbus this spring, Gray ran a laser-timed 4.56-second 40-yard dash with a 20-yard shuttle time of 4.36 seconds. His kneeling power ball toss was 36 feet to help him to a 102.09 SPARQ rating. That performance earned Gray an invite to The Opening Finals in Beaverton, Oregon, on July 6-11.
Gray plays linebacker often at La Vergne and has started since his freshman year. As a sophomore, he totaled 61 tackles with 5.5 tackles for loss.
In 2015, the defender registered 53 tackles (13 TFLs) to go with six sacks and three forced fumbles. He also stepped up on offense with teammate and wide receiver Princeton Fant out with a knee ligament tear for the whole season. Gray caught 44 passes for 680 yards with four touchdowns.
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