Tyler Bray, a former Volunteers quarterback, came to Knoxville as part of the 2010 class and was set to begin his freshman season that fall. However, while he was an early enrollee at Tennessee, then-head coach Lane Kiffin, who originally recruited Bray to Knoxville, left Tennessee for USC.
Bray recently spoke on the Guys Being Doods podcast about the immediate chaos of Kiffin’s departure. He also spoke about what it was like being a 17-year-old in that position, what role Ed Orgeron played with the infamous phone call, and much more.
“I get to Tennessee after I graduated high school early,” Bray began the conversation by saying. “[Tennessee] wanted to get me in early. They said, ‘Hey, we’re going to start you as a freshman, and we need you to come in early to start learning the offense.'”
Bray continued on to talk about Tennessee’s bowl game from the 2009 season and how that led into the big event on campus.
“They were doing the Chick-Fil-A Bowl at the time I think,” Bray said. “They finished it out, I think they lost to Virginia Tech. Shortly after, we see that Lane Kiffin is up for the USC job. So we call Coach Orgeron, who was the D-line coach at the time, and we’re like, ‘Hey, what’s going on with this?’ And he is like, ‘No, don’t worry about it, we’re going to be here for you guys. We’re going to be here. You’ll be fine.’ Sure enough, ten minutes later, Lane Kiffin takes the USC job. We go to call back the phone, and it’s been disconnected already.”
As the news was coming down, Bray mentioned how they had been playing a joke on a defensive lineman at the time, saying that the coaches were leaving. The player getting pranked couldn’t believe it, but sure enough, the joke weaved its way into reality. Within a matter of minutes, this group of freshmen including Bray, all under 18-years-old, were trying to process the situation.
What quickly followed was an infamous phone call from now LSU head coach Ed Orgeron imploring Bray and the rest of the Vols freshmen to leave Knoxville for Southern Cal.
“They called us back, all the freshman they had enrolled early, and tried to get us to go to USC,” Bray said about the first few minutes in which the news broke. “So Orgeron calls me back and says, ‘we would like to offer you a full scholarship to USC.'”
Bray spoke more about what happened after that phone call.
“People [at Tennessee] kind of told us, ‘you’ve already been to classes and all this so you can’t really leave’. And so being 17 at the time, you have no clue. You just trust what they are telling you. Don’t want to get in trouble, don’t want to sit out a year because they just promised you that you’re going to start as a freshman, you’re going to be with us for four years, and all this. Next thing you know, they’re leaving, and calling you to be like, ‘Hey, come to USC!'”
For former Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray though, he wasn’t too keen on the idea of leaving his current city for Kiffin again.
“Why would I come to USC?” Bray went on to add. “You guys literally just had me and my family move out to Tennessee, promised all these things about how we are going to be here for four years, start four years, all this, and then you just up and leave. No warning, no nothing, just, ‘hey are you guys staying?’ ‘Nope, bye!'”
Bray did not follow Kiffin to Southern California and officially began his Tennessee career in the 2010 season. By the time he left for the NFL, Bray put himself on several all-time Tennessee lists. Bray ranks fourth in touchdowns, passing yards and attempts. In addition, he also ranks fifth in completions. Currently, Bray is a free agent in the NFL. However, undrafted in 2013, Bray spent his first five years in Kansas City. He then left KC and was signed by the Chicago Bears.