Trip Thurman isn’t allowing a miscommunication override a lifetime of passion for Tennessee football.
An odd exchange that prevented the 6-foot-6, 300-pound offensive lineman from Dover (Del.) High School from meeting UT’s coaches occurred April 17 just before the Orange and White Game.
Thurman, who had been recruited by UT under former coach Lane Kiffin, planned to visit Knoxville and take part in the spring finale festivities with the other 50 or so prospects on campus.
Thurman’s high school coach called UT’s recruiting office to inform the Vols his star pupil would be visiting.
“I’m still interested in Tennessee and I haven’t heard anything from them so I called down there,” Thurman told The Sports Animal radio station on Wednesday. “They said they had heard about me and that they were excited about me coming down.”
Then, Thurman walked to the prospect entrance gate just like any other visiting recruit, and was told he wasn’t on the list. Thurman said UT offensive line coach Harry Hiestand called Monday to apologize.
“Coach Hiestand said it was just a mix-up, that it didn’t get relayed to him or any of the other coaches,” said Thurman, who stayed and watched the game. “I really don’t know who my recruiting coordinator for my area is so I couldn’t call anybody while I was down there.”
Thurman said Hiestand told him the Vols are still in catch-up mode after Derek Dooley was named Kiffin’s replacement on Jan. 15 with little more than two weeks before National Signing Day 2010.
“Coach Hiestand said they’re really behind on this year’s class because how late they had to recruit for the 2010 class,” Thurman said. “He said they’re very interested in me and they want to get to know me more. He just apologized that he didn’t get a chance to see me and I didn’t get a chance to talk to any of the coaches.
“… I thought it was a sincere apology. I know I’m still interested in Tennessee, so I want to see that through.”
Thurman already has scholarship offers from Florida, Clemson, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, West Virginia and Cincinnati, but UT has a certain allure.
Thurman’s mother graduated from UT and his father lived in Knoxville. Growing up, Thurman closely followed the Vols, who have not yet offered Thurman.
Thurman, who made the trip to UT with his father, said they were a bit taken aback by being denied access by UT’s football department.
“He was just surprised,” Thurman said of his father. “It didn’t seem like a big-time school like Tennessee could get something mixed up like that.
“Not saying that I’m a great player, but when I say I’m going to come down and they don’t have me on the list, I just think that was kind of unorganized. He thought so too. But everything’s working out now.”
Thurman, also being recruited by Penn State among others, has seen his recruitment hit another level since he received a coveted scholarship offer from Florida.
“Most definitely it’s opened up my recruitment nationally because I know Florida is a great school, football wise,” said Thurman, who is unsure of when he’ll announce his decision. “It was exciting, but not that any offer is more exciting than the other.”
Thurman said he and his family will soon evaluate the schools he’s considering to decide where they’ll visit for summer camps. Thurman said if the Vols offered him a scholarship, it would certainly affect his decision.
“They would definitely be high on my list because I know I have that (family) connection,” he said. “I’ve always liked Tennessee. … It just can’t get any better than Big Orange Country.”
Barring another mix-up, Thurman can expect a visit from one of UT’s coaches during the spring evaluation period, which is ongoing.
So far, Thurman’s only contact with a UT coach has been Hiestand’s phone call to apologize.
“I think he’s a great guy,” Thurman said of Hiestand. “Obviously, if he’s coaching at Tennessee he knows what he’s doing. You can’t really get to know a guy over the phone, but over the phone he seems like an overall good guy.”