For the sport of it: A conversation with Independence's Vic Wharton
By Marcus Stone, Sports Editor
High school football season has been over for more than four months in Williamson County, but Independence’s Vic Wharton has remained busy. Along with playing on the Eagles’ basketball team, Wharton became new University of Tennessee football coach Butch Jones’ first verbal commitment for the 2014 class in late December.
Since then, Wharton has turned into a recruiter himself. The Volunteers have nine total commitments to the class and are currently No. 4 on 247 Sports’ composite team rankings behind Texas, Texas A&M, and Florida.
Wharton played key roles in recruiting blue chip players Jalen Hurd and Todd Kelly – the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked prospects in the state.
Hurd, a Beech High School running back, is a five-star player ranked No. 2 at his position in the country while Kelly, a safety out of Webb School of Knoxville, is No. 4 at his position nationwide.
The following is a conversation held with Wharton one week prior to UT’s Orange and White scrimmage where he talks all things from Coach Jones to whom his next target recruit is.
Marcus Stone: Tell me about the day you committed to UT.
Vic Wharton: Coach Jones has always been my favorite coach. When he was at Cincinnati I was thinking about going there just because he was there. When the SEC jobs got open I said if Coach Jones takes any of these I can see myself playing there. Especially when he took my in-state school – I mean, it’s Tennessee – I knew that was going to be the school I was going to go to.
MS: What’s the difference between the way UT was recruiting you after Coach Jones got there than the way they were before?
VW: Before this staff got there, I wouldn’t have went to Tennessee. I wasn’t really considering going there. Not that I didn’t like Coach Dooley or anything, it just wasn’t the type of offense or the coaching staff I wanted to play for. When Coach Jones got there, it was just like when they were at Cincinnati. They were making me feel like a priority and more of a family-oriented program.
MS: You’re the first member of this 2014 recruiting class. What does that mean to you?
VW: I feel like I have more of a leadership role being the first one. I’ve been working longer to get everyone else to join. Coach Jones always tells me that being the first one I have a bigger role. I’m just trying to get everyone to join in and understand that we’re trying to win a national championship.
MS: How much recruiting do you do personally on a day-to-day basis?
VW: I talk to about six recruits a day. Me and (Todd Kelly), we’re really the main guys who recruit everyone. Jalen Hurd also comes in and recruits with us.
MS: About Jalen, how big of a pull was that to get him?
VW: It was a huge pull. With him committing, it shows that we’re the real deal this year with Coach Jones. Jalen came and I think we’re about to get some more big-time players.
MS: What do you tell these guys when you recruit them? What did you tell Jalen to get him to commit?
VW: I just talked to him about the history of Tennessee and what it means and how the Vol for Life program is. Byron Moore, who is a senior at Tennessee who won’t even be playing with us, he does more recruiting than really me or T.K.
MS: What will it mean for you to wear the Power T?
VW: It will be huge. My uncle playing there and everything – just keeping it in the family. Hopefully I’ll be able to play early, come in and compete for a starting position. I can’t wait to run through the T.
MS: With all this recruiting that you’re doing, do you think there’s a future for you in coaching?
VW: For sure. First and foremost, I’d like to play in the NFL. If I don’t make it, I’d love to come back and coach at Tennessee and be recruiting coordinator.
MS: You’ve still got a whole high school season left. How do you stay focused on your senior season with all this going on?
VW: You know, I think it’s easier to stay focused now since I’m committed. I don’t have to talk with all these coaches and worry about which school I’m going to go to. Now I have time to concentrate on my senior season and getting a state championship.
MS: I’m sure some schools are still trying to talk to you. What do you say to them?
VW: I still listen to them, but I’m going to go to Tennessee. I don’t really say anything to them. They know I’m committed and I love it. They just come over and say hey to me and really talk to RaShaan (Gaulden) and try and get him, but I’m recruiting Rashaan at the same time.
MS: I’m sure you have the inside track on RaShaan too.
VW: Yes sir.
Photo by Danny Parker / InsideTennessee.com
Posted on: 4/16/2013