For the last few days, Marsalis Teague had a secret.
Long a commitment to Florida, Teague remained outwardly committed to the Gators.
On the inside, though, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound athlete from Henry County High School in Paris, Tenn., couldn’t stop thinking about Tennessee.
"I was thinking about the university of Tennessee for a while," said Teague, who was one of a few pleasant surprises to sign with the Vols on Wednesday. "I kind of felt like some of the similar opportunities presented themselves at Tennessee, Florida and Alabama.
"If the opportunities are the same, why not do it in your home state? Why not try to help your state university get back on top?"
That’s the hope for Teague, whose future likely rests on the defensive side of the ball, although he could play some at slot receiver this fall.
And while a coaching change in November cost the Vols a few commitments — and even a few prospects — Teague wouldn’t have wound up at Tennessee if it wasn’t for new coach Lane Kiffin and his staff.
"With all due respect to the last staff, if they were still there, I probably wouldn’t be going to the University of Tennessee," he said. "The new staff came in with so much energy, it opened my eyes to a different part of Tennessee."
That ultimately led Teague to choose the Vols on Wednesday over Florida and Alabama during a press conference at his high school.
As Teague tells it, prying eyes watched from the hallway to see which cap he’d choose. And afterwards, he says, his phone buzzed with text messages and calls. Teachers and students in the halls at Henry County beamed.
"Everybody was all happy," he said. "It was crazy. Students, teachers. I got so many text messages and phone calls. I was like, 'This is ridiculous.’ "