It’s nearly impossible for college coaches to convince prospective student-athletes to sign a National Letter of Intent without communication and a forged bond.
Shanon Reid has that now with Tennessee after linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen made the Dunbar (Fla.) High School linebacker feel wanted and after an official visit to Knoxville over the weekend.
“Just the coaching staff, coach Thigpen and the coaches coming down to see me right before the month was over because if he had never come down, I would have never have even been here,” Reid told InsideTennessee on Monday. “I’m glad that I had came on the trip because like it really opened up my options a lot more than Michigan.
“The group of guys I was around (was most surprising). Then, one of the former players from where I’m from, he was on the trip with me — Darrian Felix. That was really great having somebody like that you know from your hometown and that played with you all this long come with you on this visit. It kind of opened both our heads.
“Coach Thigpen said they really need me at the linebacker position, just knowing that I can come in and start or I can be that No. 2 guy or work my way up, especially since I’m coming in spring. That would definitely be a great opportunity just knowing that all this group of guys are either hurt or they’re leaving their senior year or going to the league. So it would be awesome for me to come in and start off the bat and open up that opportunity.”
The Fort Myers, Florida, native added that he played against Tennessee freshmen Tyler Byrd and Carlin Fils-Aime during his first two years in high school.
“I was with Tyler Byrd after the game (against Kentucky) just talking about it,” Reid said. “He was saying he loves it up here. It just opened up his mind and just getting away and it’s close to home.”
Fourth-year Tennessee coach Butch Jones sat down with the 6-foot-1 ½, 205-pound linebacker prior to the flight home.
“Right before I left I did,” Reid said. “I got to talk to him one-on-one. It went great. He was just asking me how did I like the trip so far and how, going over my options, did this trip really open my mind more or did it expand it instead of just talking to Michigan or any other schools?”
The Scout three-star prospect visited Ann Arbor earlier this fall. The Wolverines are the Vols’ most serious contender. “Not at the top right now” are any other programs on the same level as Michigan and Tennessee.
“It’s neck and neck right now,” Reid said.
Michigan entered last week as the front-runner “because that was the only school that I’d visited and really was showing interest.”
Tennessee has a variety of traits that the linebacker finds attractive.
“The atmosphere and the group of guys and the coaching staff, just everybody. They’ve been treating me like family this whole week,” Reid said.
“The group of guys that I’ve been around and played with before and against (is enticing). Then, like the weather, that’s a big part. Then, family based off how the way that they treat their family and team and players is excellent. They treat them like one of their own children.”
He and family members were in the front row at Neyland Stadium to see Tennessee beat Kentucky 49-36 on Saturday.
“That was great just knowing that many people are in the stands,” Reid said. “Then, like I said, I got to see Tyler Byrd play — somebody from home that I know, like familiar faces. That’s great.”
The Sunshine State’s No. 9-ranked inside linebacker confirmed an official visit to Iowa State next week.
“I don’t know if I’m going to take any more (visits later) because I’m a mid (-year enrollee). So, I graduate early so I’ll have to see how that’s going to set up,” he said.
The Iowa State trip may or may not be the final one as he’ll have two more options for officials.
“I don’t know because a couple guys tried to ask me right before I went on the trip to Tennessee. They were like, ‘Do you want to set up an official?’ Maryland asked me. Who else? Miami asked. Colorado.”
Declaration plans are up in the air.
“I was thinking about on my birthday, Dec. 2,” Reid said. “Like I said to everybody, it depends on how playoffs go right now. We’re going to the second round. So it’ll go off playoffs. I’ll be having it at least before Christmas break.”