Rae Sykes has completed the journey back to Knoxville.
“I signed with Tennessee,” said a relieved Sykes following a press conference at his home in Alcoa on Wednesday.
It's not the first time the 6-foot-4, 255-pound defensive lineman signed a UT letter of intent. The former Alcoa High School star first signed with the Vols in 2007 following a highly contested recruiting battle with Florida State.
Shortly thereafter, academics stood in the way and Sykes was force to attend Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College.
“I’m very anxious to get back here,” said Sykes, who will enroll at UT in January.
Sykes has three seasons of eligibility remaining. He never played at Coffeyville because of what he said has been deemed a “minor” knee injury.
Sykes said his time in Kansas taught him something. The lesson was more about life than football.
“It made me realize what I had to do,” Sykes said. “It made me a lot hungrier and it disciplined me to.”
Sykes said he never really considered going elsewhere, even as Kentucky, Oklahoma State and South Carolina came calling.
The Wildcats made the strongest dent in his determination to play at UT. Hammering home the message was former Alcoa teammate Randall Cobb, who plays quarterback and receiver for Kentucky last season as a freshman.
“He was on me but he didn’t pressure me or anything,” Sykes said. “He told me it was a great place to be and I should go up there and look at it and give them a chance.”
Sykes considered a Lexington visit but never took it. After all, there’s a similar Tornado tie at UT.
Former Alcoa star Brandon Warren will be a junior tight end at UT in 2009.
“I’m really looking forward to playing with Brandon,” Sykes said. “We motivate each other on both sides of the ball.”
The two were often compared. Sykes cited Warren as a motivating factor for his play throughout high school.
Sykes would even like to play alongside Warren on UT’s defensive line – just for ole’ times sake.
“Actually, Id like to see him playing on the same side of the ball with me,” Sykes joked.