Friendship Collegiate defensive back D’Andre Payne verbally committed to Tennessee on Wednesday morning, less than 24-hours after he visited another school in that state – Vanderbilt. But after Payne gave the Commodores a look on Tuesday and returned home Tuesday night, he knew his heart was in Knoxville.
In Payne, the Volunteers land a heralded recruit at cornerback – adding another piece to a rebuild that is currently underway with newly hired coach Butch Jones taking over a program that endured underwhelming 5-7 finishes in each of the past two seasons.
“I just fell in love with the program,” Payne said shortly after announcing his commitment on Twitter. “Coach Jones, he is doing some good things, and he’s got some good things in store for the next couple years. It’s about to happen.”
Payne likened his commitment to joining a “movement,” and playing in the SEC has been a priority all along, he said. He visited the school last month, and was soon bombarded on his Twitter account by countless Tennessee fans. But Payne embraced that part of the process. The visit “sealed the deal,” he said Wednesday, although he still wanted to see Vanderbilt over spring break.
“It’s actually a big relief…a lot of guys, when they wait it out, it gets more stressful, each and every day. Because so much, schools, they’re putting stuff in their head,” said Payne, who had over 30 offers and had whittled his list down to include Florida State, Maryland and Vanderbilt, among others. “It takes a lot of stress off me.”
A first-team All-Met selection last fall as a cornerback at H.D. Woodson, Payne transferred to Friendship Collegiate over the winter and becomes the first high-profile player to commit from the Knights’ class of 2014.
He has an opportunity to play early at Tennessee, he said. But on Wednesday, a few minutes after he had committed, he was already talking about his senior year of high school at Friendship, and not being remembered as a player who mailed it in after deciding where to play in college.
“Just getting ready for the season…senior year. Ball out,” Payne said. “You know a lot of guys, when they’re committed and they’re seniors, they like to relax for their senior year. Not me. I’m going hard my senior year.”
Previously: Payne collects offers from Tennessee, Wisconsin
Recruit Watch: The latest offers, commitments and signings