From pre-game tape to bracelets to prayers, Tennessee defensive back Rashaan Gaulden leans heavily on his faith in both football and everyday life.
So as he continued to ponder his path — whether to return for a fifth season on Rocky Top or a chance at his childhood dream of playing in the NFL — he leaned even more on his relationship with God and the one with his late brother, Ashton, and decided Wednesday to declare for the 2018 NFL draft.
Gaulden, a 6-foot-1, 193-pounder from the Nashville suburbs, lost his sibling in a car accident when both were in elementary school.
“That’s played a huge impact on my life. I have a tattoo honoring him, and every time I step out on the field, I try to honor him,” Gaulden told GN in his first interview since he made his decision. “Losing someone in your life gives you a different kind of perspective on life.
“It makes you try to deal with that pain and bring positive out of that pain. I try to do everything to glorify God, and I know my brother is watching over me and smiling at what I’m doing.”
Gaulden said he made the decision after long family talks, as well as talks with former teammates and workout partners from Nashville’s acclaimed Playmakers Academy. He also leaned on his relationship with Tim Miller, the Sevier Heights North Campus pastor and the Vols’ team spiritual assistant.
“Tim Miller has played a big part of our life; he’s the team chaplain, but he’s far more than that to me,” Gaulden said. “Having a personal relationship with him, him inviting me into his home, having friendships with his family, his talks and looks that he gives me, we can communicate just with a look.
“We share a very special bond.”
Gaulden wants to now train to share in the success of friends and former teammates such as Jalen Ramsey (Jaguars), Josh Malone (Bengals), Derek Barnett (Eagles) and Keenan Reynolds (Redskins).
It doesn’t hurt that Gaulden will be training with one of the NFL’s best defensive backs, former Vols star Eric Berry.
“I’m going to be training in Boca Raton with Tony Villani and Jeremy Lincoln and Eric Berry, getting some good mentoring from him,” said Gaulden, who is close with Berry and his brothers, current Vols Evan and Elliott. “I’m excited for that opportunity, him being a ‘VFL’ and having a good relationship with him already.”
Gaulden is eager to show an array of skills, including a gusto for special teams that dates to his earliest days in orange and white.
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