Ahmad Paige accepted the responsibility with the popularity.
The 6-foot-3, 175-pound Paige, from Sterlington (La.) High School, was one of the most highly touted receivers in the nation before he signed to play football for Tennessee last February.
Paige enjoyed the recognition, but it brought on more media interest about his recruitment. He said the process became tiring, but he understood its importance.
Paige talked about dealing with the attention during his recruitment and developing into a standout receiver in this Q&A.
Q: What was your most memorable moment from an official visit?
A: Probably when I took my first official visit to Georgia. That was the first time I had been to a college football game. It was a night game. They were playing Tennessee. The atmosphere was amazing. It just kind of blew my mind how amped up the guys were and how much fun it is. That was probably my most memorable moment.
Q: Did you have an idea what it would be like before you took your first official visit?
A: I had no idea whatsoever. After the first two or so you kind of figure it out. Going into the first one you have no idea whats going to happen. Your eyes open and you dont know whats going to happen. It was a lot of fun. Just the overall atmosphere of a college football game at night is amazing. If anybody gets the experience, golly, youre truly blessed.
Q: What was your least favorite part of the recruiting process?
A: Probably just all the phone calls and things like that. At first its cool because you think youre popular. After a while, its like, Ugh, I dont want to do this anymore. I just want to get it over with and have people stop calling me and live your life. Towards the end of it you dont really get to enjoy your senior year. Youre going on trips and taking phone calls. But it was a fun process.
Q: Do you remember when it changed from being a fun process to being a hassle?
A: I think after I got back from the (U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 6). The phone calls were all right then, and then when you got to that game there was so much media. It was media every day, all the time. I was glad I was kind of leaving so I didnt have to do the media anymore. Then you got home and it blossomed up even more. After that youre taking visits so that made it even worse. People have to call you and ask you how your trips were and things like that. But it was cool though.
Q: A lot of recruits reach a point where they stop answering or returning phone calls, but you never did that. Why did you stay open when the process became so tiring?
A: I kind of realized that was part of it. You dont want to put anybody down. I understand its a job. Thats what you get paid to do. It kind of makes it hard on you. Everybodys wondering what this kids doing if hes not returning your phone calls. Usually, you kind of look back at it and at the time you might be busy, but if they leave you a message and later if youre not busy theres nothing wrong with calling them back and answering. Usually it wont be for an hour. They (interviews are) usually 10 or 15 minutes. Theyre not that bad.
Q: Who has had the most significant influence on your football career?
A: Probably Mr. Paul Jones. Hes the general manager for the Edmonton Eskimos, the Canadian team. Hes helped me out in every aspect of it. My school is kind of a small school. No players really go D-1. They go D-2 or something like that. Hes helped me out and told me whats going to happen here. Hes just led me each step of the way. It was good. He definitely supported me in all of my decisions.
Q: How do you know Paul Jones?
A: Hes a guy that lives in the neighborhood. Hes really good friends with my head coach. Ive seen him a lot. He kind of knew from the beginning I was going to be pretty good I guess. My sophomore year he knew I was going to be pretty good so he just helped me out getting me into camps my junior year. He helped me with just getting me better.
Q: When did you know you would have a future in football?
A: Probably after my junior season. It sure wasnt after my sophomore year. I had a lot of dropped balls. I was like, man I dont know if Im going to be any good at it. I went to camps and things like that and I didnt really believe I was good then. I had to wait until the end of the season and toward the end of the season it seemed like everything went up. After that it was like, wow, I think Ive got a future at this.
Q: What is your favorite part about playing football?
A: Probably in high school just going out under the lights, going out in front of the crowd and the lights and just playing and just having fun. Now its not going to be so much fun, its going to be more serious. Back then, it was more fun. You were out there enjoying it and having fun. Thats probably the best part about football, going out there and competing with everybody and stuff like that.
Q: Are you excited about being able to play at Neyland Stadium in front of more than 100,000 fans each home game?
A: Thats not the reason I picked them, but it definitely helped. People say, where did you go to school? I say I went to Tennessee. Thats a crazy place to play. Thats the first thing everybody says. You dont want to go in there and be the opponent going in there. That definitely helps. A Saturday night game in Neyland Stadium has got to be electrifying.
Q: You live in a small town in Sterlington. What do you think the transition will be like moving to Knoxville?
A: Its going to be all right. You kind of surround yourself with great people like coach (Trooper) Taylor, coach (Phillip) Fulmer and coach (David) Cutcliffe. Theyre going to take care of me as far as that. Im not going to go there and go out to parties all the time and things like that. I think the adjustments not going to be that big of a difference for me.