By Jesse Smithey
The wait early Saturday afternoon was killing Tee Hodge, a soon-to-be junior running back from Maryville High School who had just been offered by Tennessee and couldn’t get to his phone to tell everyone.
A teenager not being able to tweet such news is the definition of frustration. But he wanted to finish his conversation with Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt and he wanted to wait until he ate with his dad, Larry Hodge, who was celebrating a birthday.
“I was so anxious to get home, take a shower and then let everyone know what happened,” said the 6-foot, 200-pound Hodge.
But finally at 3 p.m. on the dot, Hodge got to Twitter: “Blessed and Grateful To Receive An Offer From The University Of Tennessee On My Dads Birthday!!!!” Some two hours later, the tweet had more than 350 likes and nearly 100 retweets.
“And what better birthday gift to give my dad on his birthday than an offer from an SEC school?” said Hodge.
Getting the offer from Tennessee surprised Hodge on Saturday. Sure, he’d be talking some with the Tennessee staff and they wanted him to come to camp there. But Hodge said he had been given no indication that he might receive an offer.
What’s more, so far in the recruiting process, he’d only been offered by Chattanooga and Austin Peay. But his stock had soared lately. He ran a sub-4.5 in the 40-yard dash at Kentucky. He had visited Virginia Tech.
But the Vols staff liked what they saw in Hodge in person Saturday and intimated they want to keep him at running back and not linebacker.
“I ran a good time. But I think they were impressed because that’s the first time they had seen me in person,” Hodge said. “They were really impressed with my size and my ability to move.
“They said they wanted me to keep working out and keep getting bigger. Today, I didn’t even work out at linebacker. Coach (Chris) Weinke was recruiting me hard and wanted me to be with him.”
Weinke, a Heisman-winning quarterback at Florida State, is Tennessee’s running backs coach this season. Hodge showed promise last fall as a sophomore running back for the Rebels, rushing for 723 yards and 12 touchdowns while sharing carries with brother Isaiah Cobb during a Class 6A state championship season.
“I’ve already told my parents, ‘Nothing can ruin my mood,'” Hodge said about his day. “It’s still kind of setting in. I can’t believe it. I’ve always been a laid-back guy, but when they offered me I was just like, ‘I can’t believe it.'”
Though he was “jumping up and down” inside his head at the offer, Hodge said he will go through the recruiting process nice and easy and not rush into anything.
“I’m going to wait it out right now,” he said. “I’m still young. I’m not going to rush things. I’m going to let the process take care of itself. I’m still learning the process.
“I’m just going to chill right now and let everything sink in.”