When D.J. Prather received a scholarship offer from Middle Tennessee State recently, the Gordon Central High School defensive lineman admitted to being excited.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder also had a lot of excitement in his voice Friday, when he said he had turned down the Blue Raiders and will stick with his commitment to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
"I was surprised when I got it," Prather said of the MTSU offer, "and, yes, I was excited, but I just had to weigh my options. I've been with UTC, stuck with UTC this whole time, so I'm not just going to leave them now."
Just 16 years old when he committed to UTC on Dec. 6 -- Warriors coach Chad Fisher said the Mocs got "a dadgum steal" in his star tight end and defensive end -- Prather said he's ready for national signing day (Feb. 6) to arrive.
"Your phone doesn't stop ringing even though you've committed," he said. "You've got different teams almost every week coming in and trying to recruit you. I do wish I could go ahead and sign with UTC. That way everybody would leave me alone."
Of course schools keep pursuing prospects down to the wire because they need players, and sometimes the players a school thought it had committed choose to go elsewhere. UTC had a couple of two-star linebackers de-commit last year: John Law signed with Appalachian State and John Silas signed with Elon.
It doesn't get much worse than losing a player to a conference rival late in the recruiting process, though having Kentucky pluck a highly touted player away on the night before signing day, as it did with Mocs commitment Darrell Warren in 2011, isn't easy, either.
"Sometimes when a player commits, things are just getting started and the battles are just beginning," Mocs recruiting coordinator Will Healy said.
UTC isn't a Football Bowl Subdivision school like Kentucky or MTSU. It might not have all of the fancy facilities or national championship trophies of an Appalachian State. But in a lot of cases none of that is more important than relationships built over many months.
Those relationships, with their inherent loyalty, can be the difference between losing a recruit and keeping one.
Terrance Jenkins, a two-star linebacker from Plant High School in Tampa, Fla., said UTC's coaches don't have to worry about him.
"I'm done after this," he said after committing to UTC on Monday. "I gave them my word, and I'm not taking it back."
Suspended defensive tackle Keyon Reed was arrested early Saturday morning at Boling Apartments for criminal trespassing that stemmed from a Jan. 7 incident when he was arrested and charged with assault of a police officer.
Reed is suspended from school and not allowed on campus, UTC spokesman Chuck Cantrell said, which is why he was arrested, without incident, when campus police broke up a late-night party at Boling.