The drive along Interstate 40 from Nashville to Knoxville, winding up and down the Cumberland Plateau, is as familiar to the Lampley family as a worn football.
A trip last month, though, will forever remain in the family’s memories. Invited to Rocky Top alongside several top-tier prospects for the 2018 signing classes and beyond, 2019 four-star offensive lineman Jackson Lampley rediscovered with new coach Jeremy Pruitt and staff what he already knew in his heart.
Lampley told GN he had dreamed of committing to Tennessee “for as long as I can remember, honestly. I’ve always wanted to be a Vol, ever since I was a little kid, comparing every other school to Tennessee, and nothing really comes close for me. I absolutely love the school and couldn’t see myself going to any other school.”
On the way home from that trip, riding in the back seat, with mom Christy and dad Brad in front, Jackson rather matter of factly let his parents know the decision everyone in the car long had known but kept largely unspoken.
“We’re driving back on I-40, he was in the backseat and he told us. Christy looked at me, I had tears in my eyes. I just looked straight ahead, and he said, ‘I know; it’s over,’ ” Brad Lampley, a Vols offensive lineman in the mid-1990s, told GN. “I kept trying to push him to look at other schools, a lot of them places he’d already been, then what about the ones we haven’t been to. He had been on so many trips, so many different places – I think 20 trips in 15 months. He kept going back to comparing everything else to Tennessee because Tennessee was home.
“So much of it was just based on how was he going to like the staff and particularly the new offensive line coach (Will Friend) and the players. He loved Will Friend, loved the players, hung out and had a great time. He said, ‘If I went anywhere else, I’d always be questioning why I didn’t go to Tennessee.’ He doesn’t care it’s not on as big an upswing yet; I think he’s confident, as are we, they’re going to be on the upswing. There were definitely some tears. He didn’t know it. But as a former player who loves the place like I do – and so many of us VFLs do – to have your son say he wants to go there is special. Special.”
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