All James Brown needed was one weekend in Big Orange Country to prove that Tennessee was home to him.
His commitment to the Orange & White was almost like “fate” for the 6-foot-3, 221-pound tight end out of Orlando, Florida, who officially visited Knoxville over the weekend.
“I got to spend more time with the players, and that really just helped me get a feel for the place,” said Brown, who committed on Oct. 30. “Hanging out and knowing people, and meeting different people just helped me get a feel of the place and know if it's home or not. And it’s home.”
The Scout No. 4 tight end in the Sunshine State hadn’t received an offer from Tennessee until late October after switching from quarterback to tight end at Jones (Fla.) High School. But that wasn’t the first time the Vols had shown interest in Brown.
“Tennessee told me before the season started, ‘We like you. You have the body type for a tight end,’” he said. “I was like, 'Man, I’m a quarterback, I’m not a tight end.’ And I played my senior year and I played tight end, so they offered. So I wasn’t surprised about that.
“I was always the quarterback for my football team, but then (the head coach said) my recruitment could blow up if I played tight end. He saw the light in me.”
The offers did start rolling in after he made the positional switch.
It was Tennessee’s initial interest in the Scout three-star prospect’s potential that gave it the edge on his commitment.
“I see it as fate," Brown said. "It came so late. (Other schools) could have offered me a while ago, but Tennessee trusted me. They saw my ability. They said they can use me in different ways, so I just trusted them and they trusted me.
“All these schools were coming in like they wanted me from the long run. There are so many schools that hit me up now.”
Graduated from Rocky Top is tight end Jason Croom, who stood at 6-foot-5, 246-pounds. Brown’s physicality could provide him the opportunity to take over the vacant spot.
“I’ll probably put the weight on and be like a Jason Croom, where I play in the slot,” he said. “And talking with (Tennessee) coach (Larry) Scott, the way I’m gaining right now, I could be a totally different person by the time the season starts.”
The South’s No. 12-ranked tight end made physical adjustments over the past year, giving him the ideal body type to compete at the next level in his position.
“I gained 20 pounds in a season. I came in at quarterback at 205 pounds, and then I started bulking up and I was 221.
“(Scott) told me, ‘If you can get to 220 by the time you enroll in June, then we can put the weight on wherever we need, but then I came up here and I’m 221 right now whenever I stepped on the scale.”
After building a relationship with Scott, who spent the last year coaching tight ends, the Volunteer commit saw plenty of positives in the coach’s promotion to offensive coordinator, as announced this past Friday.
“That was exciting because he was the tight ends coach, so I know he’s going to favor towards throwing to the tight ends,” he said. “Watching film with (the coaches), they favor towards throwing to the tight ends anyway. So I expect that, with him being the (offensive coordinator), it’s going to make it even better for the tight ends."
The past weekend not only surfaced positive news for Brown’s potential at Tennessee within his position, but it provided the opportunity for him to speak one-on-one with the coaching personnel about what he can expect at his future school, further solidifying his commitment.
“Today, (Scott) really stressed the targeting of our tight ends. I kept asking him, ‘Do you all throw to your tights ends,’ and he literally set up a whole film session for me with like one hundred plays of them throwing to their tights ends—drops and catches. Showing me what they did wrong, they we’re showing me what to do better, and asking questions about coverages and stuff. They wanted all my questions I had before to be answered at the highest level, so that I wouldn’t have any doubts about committing here.”
The No. 50-overall ranked tight end in the 2017 class visited Knoxville alongside a number of other Florida natives, which was another plus to him.
“There’s a bunch of Florida guys over here. And a bunch of the recruits that came up (this weekend) were all from Florida, so that was pretty good."
Brown is doing his part to reel in even more Sunshine State natives to the Volunteer State.
“Tim Jordan, we’re trying to get him up here. He’s undecided right now," Brown said.
“Devan Barrett is committed to Auburn right now and he just spent a little money on some Tennessee gear, so we’ll see how that goes.”
Checking out Neyland Stadium and trying on the Smokey Grey uniforms was yet another highlight of his weekend in Orange Country.
“It was surreal, because when they started taking pictures of (the recruits), I just felt like I was on top of the world. Those Smokey Grey jerseys are pretty nice. I loved it.”
Though he is all Vol at this point, other schools are still attempting to catch his attention nine days before signing day. He listed off the following schools as programs still reaching out to him: “UF, Oregon, and USF—a bunch of different schools, but I’m 100% to Tennessee right now.
“I was going to go to UF (this weekend). I just thought about it. I really don’t need to take a visit. I could just be having fun, but I’ll talk with my parents and see how we want to deal with that.”
His preferred jersey number for the upcoming season is No. 17, which is currently vacated by Brandon Johnson.
“I probably won’t get that number right now. I just used my high school number, so we’ll see what number I’ve got when I get there.”