Take a quick glance at Tennessee’s newest commitment - D.T. Shackelford - and you might be confused.
That’s D.T., as in “Deterrian”, not D.T. as in defensive tackle. Shackelford, you see, plays linebacker.
But don’t feel bad. You wouldn’t be the first to make that mistake.
“When Vanderbilt started recruiting me they tried to recruit me as a defensive tackle since my name was D.T.,” the 6-foot-2, 230-pounder said shortly after committing to UT on Friday morning. “I had to tell them ‘Nah, that’s my name.’ ”
Oops. So with the Commodores out of the running, Shackelford, who is from Austin High School in Decatur, Ala., considered offers from Auburn, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Marshall, Stanford and South Carolina. LSU had also shown strong interest lately and was thought to be close to offering.
Nearby Alabama, thanks to a roster chock full of linebackers, showed little interest.
“They actually didn’t even recruit me, believe it or not,” Shackelford said. “A lot of people were shocked about that.”
Think that might be a motivating factor?
“Oh, man, it’s going to inspire me to play hard this year,” Shackelford said. “Just to know you’re in state and your own in-state school doesn’t even recruit you, that’s going to be a big motivation.
“And I know that Alabama-Tennessee game is a big rivalry game. That’s certainly on my mind.”
Shackelford is UT’s 16 verbal commitment for the 2009 signing class and appears solid in his choice.
“I’ve been liking Tennessee since I was little,” he said. “It’s kind of odd. My dad likes Tennessee a lot too.”
A pair of visits to Knoxville made the Vols even more attractive. Shackelford was first in town for a track meet, then attended UT’s football camp in June.
“I saw a lot of things I liked about it, not just because it was my favorite team growing up,” Shackelford said. “I felt it was the right fit for me.”
Then came the closer: UT defensive coordinator John Chavis, who has a long history of coaching linebackers into top-flight players. Once Chavis told Shackelford he could be a standout linebacker, the decision was all but made.
“That had a lot to do with it,” Shackelford said. “For a linebacker coach to actually tell you that, that means more (than a recruiter who coaches another position).”
Chavis was the lead recruiter for Shackelford from day one. Over time, the two built a strong bond.
“He’s a real cool man,” Shackelford said.
Mississippi State fell second to UT for Shackelford’s services. Auburn, just a three-hour drive away, was also strongly considered.
“I considered them because I had been going to their camps since I was little,” said Shackelford, who registered 112 tackles, seven sacks, five fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles last season.
UT, however, seemed the perfect fit.
“I just felt like it was time and that’s where I wanted to be,” said Shackelford. “It was a good feeling.”
Josh Ward contributed to this report.