Gladness in Search of a Team

Sometimes a talented prospect can fall through the cracks and right into the lap of a college team in the right place and at the right time.

Take the unusual case of Andre Gladness, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound cornerback from Stratford High School in Goose Tree S.C., who is taking the road less traveled to Division I football.

Gladness completed his senior year last June only to discover he hadn't satisfied the NCAA clearinghouse's requirements needed to accept a football scholarship. So instead of going to a junior college or prep school, he decided to return to Stratford High this fall to earn credit hours for a semester of computer science studies.

"I just need a computer class but I took some of my core courses over just so I could lift by GPA enough to give me some leeway," he explained to this writer. "I've already made a 960 on my SAT but I'm going to try to get it higher. I'll probably take it again in December."

Although he can't compete in football because he has already played four years, he is still involved with the high school team as well as active in strength training. He's on track to fulfill his academic obligations in December and would like to be enrolled in a college by January.

"I'm not playing this year," he told Robert Thorne of "I have already finished my high school football. I am in school this year to make the grades so I can play in college. My coach didn't tell me about the NCAA clearinghouse last year, but I'm going to graduate in December. I got my grades yesterday. My lowest grade was an 85. I'm just trying to make a B average."

While Gladness is getting his academics in shape, his physical talent and production as a player need no such enhancement. As a senior, he recorded 55 tackles with nine interceptions, five pass breakups and four fumble recoveries. He returned two of those interceptions for scores, including a 98-yard dash to pay dirt.

His performance for the Class-4A Knights earned him all-region honors in addition to being selected for the All Low-Country Team featuring the eight southern most 4-A high schools in South Carolina.

As a junior, Gladness had 60 tackles with four picks and seven pass breakups. He finished his scholastic career with 16 interceptions. One of those INTs came at the expense of current Vol corner Jonathan Hefney when Hefney was a senior quarterback at Rock Hill, S.C.

Gladness reports having 4.43 speed in the 40 and to go with a 36-inch vertical leap. He is also a sprinter in track who turned in the state's fastest time in the 800 meters in 2004 with a 1:52. He also ran qualified for the state finals in the 4x400 relay, the 4x800 relay and the 400-meter run.

"I wanted to run the 100 meters," he said. "Basically I was a team player I told him (track coach) whatever they needed me to do I'd do."

The track pursuits of Gladness is what brought him to first visit Tennessee and it sparked an interest that he maintains to this day.

"The reason why I was interested in Tennessee is that I was running the junior olympics when I was about 12 years old and we ran on the Tennessee track," he said. "There were Tennessee track stars there teaching people stuff. They were real nice and I really enjoyed their company. I got a tour of the campus and ever since then I've been following Tennessee through their football games and I had a couple of visits (to Knoxville) a couple of years ago."

Those visits were unofficial, but Tennessee has an official interest in Gladness and UT coach Dan Brooks has contacted him a few times to inquire about his academic status.

"The schools that are recruiting me right now are Nevada, Cincinnati, College of Charleston, Tennessee, South Carolina State and Rutgers," Gladness said. "I have an offer from Cincinnati and a couple of others, but I don't have one from Tennessee."

He has also heard from Clemson and recently sent a highlight tape to the Tigers coaching staff.

"Another reason I got into Tennessee is because they have a good track team," he said. "I'm real good in track and I'd like to run track in college."

Gladness continues to strength train several days each week and is currently lifting 255 pounds in the bench and 335 in the squat.

The Vols have committed a couple of cornerback prospects in the Class of 2005 and they may not add anymore. Still you can you have too many cornerbacks come fall or too much Gladness come the holidays?

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