Credit Mike Hamilton for landing cornerback Eric Gordon.
No, Tennessee’s athletic director isn’t actively recruiting for the Vols, but his decision to replace former coach Phillip Fulmer with Lane Kiffin paved the way for Gordon to play for the Vols. Otherwise, Gordon almost assuredly wouldn’t have ended up at UT.
“Probably not man,” the freshman cornerback said Sunday during UT's media day.
The previous staff didn’t think it had a shot at Gordon, who admitted he was likely headed to Miami.
“You don’t want a coach that will let you get by with too much,” Gordon said, referring to Fulmer.
The issue for Gordon was a lack of discipline.
“I’m from Nashville so we hear a lot of stuff that goes on around here: a couple of guys that get arrested, failing drug tests in the past,” the former Hillsboro High School standout said. “My mom just didn’t want that for me.”
Gordon’s lack of discipline in academics almost landed him in prep school. After practicing with the Vols for a week, Gordon was held out of Tuesday’s practice while the NCAA Clearinghouse considered his application.
Gordon was cleared in time for Wednesday’s practices. He responded with an interception on a poorly thrown pass in the morning and sliced in front of a receiver to pick off another pass late Wednesday evening.
“The slant pick was really special,” said Kiffin, who joked that Gordon may have had fresh legs thanks to the NCAA.
Gordon said Kiffin quickly won him over after his hiring was announced on Dec. 1. He committed to Kiffin a week later, making him Kiffin’s first commitment as a head coach.
“I was landing on a plane in California recruiting somebody … just getting ready to land and he commits to us,” Kiffin said. “He was the first commitment we had as a new staff that we had gone and got. It was pretty neat.”
Kiffin laid the groundwork by waiting on Gordon’s bus in Nashville as he returned home from an all-star game. Kiffin spent the rest of the evening with Gordon’s family.
“It was kind of special for me,” Kiffin said of securing Gordon.
Yet it wasn’t patience that landed Gordon; it was a promise to run a disciplined program.
“I think he knew he needed it,” Kiffin said. “He was a guy that was behind (academically) that was going to have to do a lot of work to get eligible. I think he wanted an environment that was going to be very disciplined to come into.
“Sometimes when you know that you’re not the most disciplined — it’s hard to admit it — but you draw towards that discipline because you know you need it.”
Gordon and his mother couldn’t have agreed more.
“She didn’t want me to get into trouble,” he said. “These coaches, they not having any of that.”