What makes a recruit decide to be a walk-on at a university rather than take a scholarship offer to another program? For James Parsons, it’s a belief in Tennessee’s head coach and the direction of the football program.
Parsons is a 6-foot-5, 300-pound offensive lineman from Kings Mountain, North Carolina. He had offers from several Division II and Division III schools, but he ultimately chose to walk on at Tennessee and forgo the scholarships from other schools. And in a recent interview he did with me, he said the big reason he chose the Vols was because of his belief in Tennessee’s 2019 class being the foundation of something special.
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“I just really believe Tennessee can take over the SEC again,” Parsons stated. “I think this is the class to do it, and I want to be part of something special.”
Parsons joins Tennessee as an offensive lineman who may be a walk-on now, but he could be on scholarship within a few years. The North Carolina lineman said that Tennessee told him that he would be able to be put on scholarship possibly as soon as his second year at UT if works hard enough and earns that offer.
And the incoming freshman knows all about putting in that work.
Coming into high school, Parsons was 180 pounds and played along the defensive line. He began putting on weight and working on his strength, and in 10th grade he was moved up to Kings Mountain’s varsity team. He was also moved over to the offensive side of the ball, and by his junior year, he as playing left tackle.
Parsons played left tackle for his final two years of high school, and now he measures in at a robust 300 pounds. But he isn’t some pudgy lineman; Parsons has been timed running a 5.3-second 40-yard dash and can squat 500 pounds.
Tennessee’s Assistant Director of Player Personnel, Danny Stiff, was the one who contacted Parsons last spring about checking out Tennessee at a camp. But unfortunately for Parsons, he couldn’t make it to a camp then or over the summer.
“I got busy during the summer and couldn’t make it, so I thought Tennessee would never talk to me again,” Parsons explained. “Then in November, he (Stiff) sent me a text and told me I was invited to a game and to come watch and talk to him.”
Parsons visited during Tennessee’s game against Charlotte, and he instantly fell in love with what the university offered. He called the trip “unbelievable” and said he felt at home in Knoxville.
“It was unbelievable. There were a ton of people there. I’ve never been in a crowd that big.,” Parsons said. “When I first got there, it felt like home. That was really what I was looking for in every college. I wanted a college that would make me feel like I was at home.”
Now that Parsons is “home,” he can’t wait to get to work with his new team. He joins a 2019 class of Tennessee prospects that will be Jeremy Pruitt’s first full class of players at UT, and he sees a great deal of potential in this class.
According to Parsons, Tennessee’s 2019 class will be the foundation of great things to come. While he says other schools are “star gazing” in recruiting, he believes Tennessee is going after the right kind of players.
“We have a ton of athletes, a ton of offensive linemen, a ton of defensive linemen. I just see a bunch of talent coming in,” Parsons stated. “Alabama and all them are chasing stars, but Coach Stiff and the entire Tennessee staff are chasing dogs.”