It’s not often that a prospect remains firmly committed to a coach he’s never met.
Most prospects would waver. Not Nigel Mitchell-Thornton.
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound linebacker from Stephenson High School in Stone Mountain, Ga., had only spoken to newly hired Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin once on the phone since he was hired Dec. 1.
Mitchell-Thornton said Kiffin apologized for not visiting him in Georgia this month. After this weekend, consider the apology accepted.
“At the official he was a great guy,” Mitchell-Thornton said of Kiffin. “He talked like one of the guys.”
As Mitchell-Thornton headed home to Georgia on Sunday afternoon, he was still impressed with Kiffin’s handling of his first official visit weekend as a Vol.
“It was great,” Mitchell-Thornton said. “It was just a great experience.
“Although he is new, he acted like he had been there since the beginning of the year.”
Meeting with academic advisors was a high priority for Mitchell-Thornton, who plans to enroll at UT in January.
“They just made everything crystal clear for me,” he said.
Mitchell-Thornton said he’s not concerned about enrolling at UT before he knows who Tennessee’s next defensive coordinator will be. Kiffin is expected to hire his father, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. No formal announcement has been made.
“That would be almost like winning the lottery,” Mitchell-Thornton said of playing for Monte Kiffin. “You’re learning an NFL system in college.
“I think I’ll be able to adjust to any kind of new system no matter what it is.”
Safety Eric Berry and linebacker Nick Reveiz served as Mitchell-Thornton’s hosts during his official visit. That was probably a bit of challenge since the semester ended last week and few students were on campus.
“I still was able to get somewhat of a feel,” Mitchell-Thornton said. “We still had a couple of guys to show us around from the football team.”
Academics, facilities and campus life were all worth checking out. But finally meeting Lane Kiffin was key.
“As a person,” Mitchell-Thornton said, “I thought he was just a great guy.”