First impressions can be everlasting — at least, the coaching staff at Tennessee hopes so.
Elijah Holyfield, son of former boxing world champion Evander Holyfield, put several faces with names this June as he viewed a summer camp on The Hill.
After seeing Kentucky, Louisville and Ole Miss in 2014, it was Holyfield's first trip to Knoxville as he rode up with a pair of his prep coaches.
"It's real nice," the Class of 2016 running back out of Woodward Academy in College Park, Ga., said. "I got to see all the facilities, the field, got to meet all the coaches finally today, got to sit down with (Tennessee running backs) coach (Robert) Gillespie and all the coaches. So, it was real nice."
The Scout three-star prospect says he doesn't have a leader and wants to see many more college campuses but Tennessee left an impression.
"They're at the top, they're at the top," Holyfield said. "I haven't really trimmed down my list that much yet, but I'll definitely come back to Tennessee because I want to visit and actually see a game and see that stadium filled up.
"It just seems like a place where they honestly care about you. They're a program that's about to be on the rise and a pretty popular place and a place you want to be a part of now. I feel like they're going to be really good."
Defensive backs coach Willie Martinez is Holyfield's lead recruiter to Tennessee and it was via the second-year Vols assistant that the runner first learned of his scholarship offer this spring.
"It was really exciting," said Holyfield whose other recent offers include Ohio State and Wisconsin. "I had heard from (Tennessee) a little bit but wasn't really sure how much they liked me or whatever. My coach told me to call coach Martinez. I talked to (Martinez) and he just offered me. I was ecstatic.
"(Martinez) is a real fired up guy, and I like that about him a lot. He's always real nice and always honest with me. That's why I really like him."
Should he decide to suit up for the Orange & White, his position could would be Gillespie, who played SEC football in Gainesville.
"I like (Gillespie)." Holyfield said. "I like coaches that have actually played at the college level and know what I'm going through. He's a real ‘fired-up' guy when you go into the drills."
Having seen a camp setting on Rocky Top allowed Holyfield to get an idea of what practice on Haslam Field with coach Butch Jones & Co. leading the way may be like.
"I got to see all of them camping and got to see how they coach and their coaching styles and everything like that. So, it was real nice."
Relationships and trust will have plenty to do with the runner paring down his list of favorite schools.
"One of the things I want to do is just meet the coaches, go to a coaching staff that actually cares about me," the three-star said. "I want to go to a place where I have an opportunity to play early — not necessarily start but just to get in the game for my freshman year. I want a chance to compete and compete at the highest level and a place that puts backs in the (National Football) League."
With two years of prep football in College Park still to go, don't expect a public declaration anytime soon.
"I think I will probably want to wait for awhile so probably late 12th grade year, somewhere in there," the chiseled 5-foot-10, 190-pounder said.
In developing his craft, Holyfield keeps a close eye on some of the best backs on the planet.
"I've never thought of me being a certain type of back," he said. "I try to look at different people and try to grab the best out of all of them. My favorite back of all time is LaDainian Tomlinson. That's the person I watched being young, but I try to watch all the backs now. I watch Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Darren McFadden — I'm a big fan of his. I just watch a lot of backs."
Holyfield says he carries a 3.0 grade point average, has not taken the ACT (plans to this fall) and is undecided on a major.
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