All Marlon Walls needed was a reason to pursue his dream, and Ed Orgeron’s firing from Ole Miss was just that.
“If that would have never happened,” the 6-foot-4, 225-pound linebacker said Saturday after committing to Tennessee. “I would have probably still been going to Ole Miss and made a huge mistake.”
It seemed UT always had a shot at Walls, even when he made the curious decision to commit to be a Rebel in November. Commitment to Ole Miss or not, Walls had often called UT his “dream school” last summer.
Still, proximity and a close relationship with Orgeron and assistant coach Hugh Freeze made Ole Miss appealing. But UT was never far from Wall’s mind.
“That’s always been my dream, the place I always wanted to go,” Walls said.
In-state pressure was once considered a plus for UT until Walls moved from Wooddale High School in Memphis to Olive Branch (Miss.) High. Suddenly, Walls went from being the News Sentinel’s fourth best prospect in the state and seemingly destined to sign with UT to being surrounded by Ole Miss fans.
But once Orgeron and Freeze were gone, neither fans nor newly hired Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt could convince Walls to stay in-state.
“It was pretty easy,” Walls said of changing his mind. “I would say it was easier than what I thought it would be.”
Walls has been to most of the schools in the SEC, but strangely enough had never been to, the school he was most infatuated with, UT. His first visit to Knoxville was Jan. 11.
“I had chills from the moment I was there to the moment I left,” Walls said. “I didn’t want to leave. It turned out to be more than what I thought it would be.
“None of them (other SEC schools) felt the way I felt when I went down there (to Knoxville).”
With any prospect that decommits, there’s usually concern about just how committed he is to his new school. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Walls.
“I’m happy with where I’m at,” said Walls, who also considered Florida last summer. “It can’t get any better than that.”
To be so smitten with the Vols, it’s almost hard to believe that Walls could have ended up at Ole Miss had it not been for the Rebels’ coaching change. The whole scenario has taught Walls a lesson.
“I know now that things happen for a reason,” he said.