Most Tennessee fans believe the Vols are overdue for a championship.
Preston Bailey does, too.
Bailey, a 6-foot-5, 320-pound offensive lineman from Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, signed a national letter of intent to play football at UT in February.
Bailey said one of his goals is to help bring a national championship to UT, which hasn’t won a conference or national title since the 1998 season.
Bailey, who plans to enroll at UT for the second session of summer school on July 7, talks about his goals at UT and preparing for his college career in this Q&A.
Q: What was your most memorable moment from your official visit to Tennessee?
A: I would say my most memorable moment was actually the dinner the first night we were there. They brought the recruits that Friday night to Ruth’s Chris (Steak House). I had always heard a lot about it. Some of my friends had been there before and my parents had actually gone without me. That was my first time going there. I just enjoyed it. That was some of the best steak I’ve had in my life. It’s nice. The official visit lets you know when you’re recruited and you’re going to play college football, that they want you. They’re spending money on you and catering to your needs if you want. It’s nice to have someone cater to you every now and then.
Q: What was your least favorite part about recruiting?
A: My least favorite part would probably be all the mail. It started to get ridiculous. It’d be like an average of five to 15 letters a day. It just piled up. I was excited at the beginning. Then I started running out of places to put it. I ended up throwing a bunch of letters in the trash. Even after I committed there was still letters and letters. It just got annoying.
Q: Was there a part of the recruiting process you did enjoy?
A: Getting a chance to talk to different coaches to their faces or over phone. If you get recruited at the Division 1 level, you get to sit down and talk to some of the most intelligent minds in the country. You get to see what their coaching is about and you can see what they’re like personally versus on TV. It’s a very gratifying experience.
Q: Who has made the most significant influence on your football career?
A: I would probably say my mother. She’s been there since I was the age of four up until now. She was at every game I was going to play starting in little league. She’s always been there for me my entire life. My entire life she’s supported me in whatever I wanted to do, whether it was football or something else. She’s always been there for me.
Q: When did you know you would have a future in football?
A: It kind of came to me early in life. It had always been a dream of mine since I was four or five, since I’ve played the sport. It started to sink in late in middle school or early in high school. I had these God-given talents that I’ve been blessed with. I just kept at it and worked hard. It’s gotten me to this point. I’m very thankful for it.
Q: What is your favorite part about playing football?
A: My favorite part is how football or just sports has the ability to take you from your normal, everyday life and into an entirely different world. If there’s anything bad that happened that day it can be completely erased. You get away from everyday life and just step on the field and put your heart and soul into it. You can have fun and enjoy something. It helps a lot. I know a lot of people, including myself, see football when you’re going to practice or a game as a stress reliever. You might leave practice feeling a lot better about the situation than before.
Q: What will it mean to you to play for UT, the school from your home state?
A: That means a lot. It was one of the biggest important factors when I was deciding to go to Tennessee. You see a lot of guys have a chance to play ball at other big time schools. They can go to Michigan, Florida, and USC. I like that I get to represent my home state. Tennessee is where I’m from. I’ll always be proud of that and represent that. Getting to put on that orange jersey and run through the “T” is just icing on the cake. It was a no brainer to me to be able to represent my home state.
Q: What will be the biggest adjustment to the college game?
A: The biggest adjustment is going to be going to play Division 1 football, specifically in the SEC. It’ll be getting used to the speed. I’ll go from being one of biggest guys on the field to one of the average-sized guys. I’ll have to get used to the size and speed. It’s almost the same adjustment going from middle school to high school or little league to middle school. It’s the speed factor.
Q: What are some of your goals at UT?
A: First and foremost my main goal is to get an education and continue my hard work and put it into the classroom. Second, I want to bring a national championship to my home state. It’s been a while since we got one. It’s been 10 years. We’re past due for another one. I’ll just focus on being the best athlete possible and best football player I can be every single day. The rest will take care of itself.
Q: Do you have a favorite athlete?
A: The guy I’ve always admired is Muhammad Ali. His energy and tenacity and love for the sport he played just showed me how to really be a true athlete. You have to go hard at all times and give all you’ve got. He showed you can attain strong character at the same time. I’ve always admired him.