BEAVERTON, Ore. — Donovan Peoples-Jones made his way from the Motor City to Rocky Top “probably around five” times already to familiarize himself with Tennessee football.
It takes that type of initiative for a program to stretch well beyond its backyard to sign one of the nation’s most coveted prospects as Scout ranks the Michigan resident as the No. 30 player in the 2017 class.
“They have nice facilities, and I’m very comfortable there,” Peoples-Jones told InsideTennessee.
The Detroit native narrowed his list of schools down to 10 in January, including Alabama, Florida. Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas A&M and USC.
“I have a lot of interest in Tennessee,” Peoples-Jones said. “They’re in my top 10 obviously. (Tennessee wide receivers) coach (Zach) Azzanni is one of the best in the game. Also, John Kelly, from Detroit, Michigan. He’s there, so it’s a little bit better when I know someone there at the school.
“He’s told me what it’s like a little bit here and there. He’s really just given me more tips on anything outside of recruiting.”
The Scout No. 1-rated wide receiver in the Midwest and No. 3 in the nation expounded on what separates Azzanni from some coaches recruiting him.
“He’s a really good coach,” Peoples-Jones said. “I think he has a lot of experience coaching guys like (Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver) Antonio Brown, who’s one of the top guys in the League.”
The Cass Tech standout doesn’t know when he’ll shave the list of finalists further but a few programs will be eliminated soon enough.
“I’ll don’t know if it’s going to be exactly seven,” the Scout 100 member said. “I’ll narrow it down a little bit more coming up. I don’t know who will make that cut right now; I don’t have any favorites or anybody that I know will be in the top 7.”
The 6-foot-2, 175-pounder with laser-timed 4.42-second speed qualified for his second straight The Opening finals with a a strong performance at The Opening Columbus. However, he did not go through routes on air Wednesday and may not compete this week.
“I’m going to do my best to,” he said. “Just a little nagging injury.
“It’s really nice to be out here with the best facilities, best coaches, best players out here competing. So, it’s real fun.”
In 2015, Peoples-Jones caught 68 passes for 1,161 yards with 18 touchdowns. In the MHSAA Division I state championship. Peoples-Jones caught eight passes for 85 yards with a 36-yard touchdown but it wasn't enough in a 41-27 loss to Romeo.
The standout athlete did get a state championship ring this past school year — in the MHSAA Lower Peninsula track and field Division I finals. Peoples-Jones ran a leg for Cass Tech on its 4x400-meter relay team that smoked the competition with a winning time of 42.26 seconds.