KNOXVILLE — The highest-rated recruit to sign with Tennessee's football program Wednesday did so by quietly sending the Volunteers his national letter of intent.
And that's how Ty Chandler would prefer national signing day to go.
"That's just who I am as a person, a quiet guy that loves to work hard," the Montgomery Bell Academy running back said Tuesday. "I'm not really big into the media or all that type of stuff. I'm just a guy that loves to work hard."
Regardless of his demeanor, nothing about Chandler's talent is quiet.
He's long been considered one of the nation's top running backs in his class, and the production during his high school career reinforces the notion. In the history of Tennessee high school football, Chandler ranks seventh in rushing yards (6,158) and third in touchdowns (92). He totaled 616 yards and seven touchdowns in Division II-AA state championship games the past two seasons.
Yet when he committed to the Vols in August, he did so with little fanfare and essentially shut his recruitment down, not wavering or taking any official visits elsewhere after picking Tennessee. And his approach has had "a big influence" on teammates, MBA coach Marty Euverard said.
"He's humble," Euverard said. "And if he says he's going to do something, he follows through. That's just kind of the way he is and it's the way he's always been, sticking to what he says he's going to do.
"For four years he's been in this varsity locker room and just been a great leader, not always by words but by his actions and being humble. He's had a lot of publicity and a lot of notoriety, and he's handled it with class and handled it with dignity."
Chandler moved to Tennessee in the fourth grade after living in Mississippi. His father, Chico, played at Ole Miss, and his uncle played at Mississippi Valley State. His earliest college football memories shade more toward the Egg Bowl, the heated rivalry between Ole Miss and Mississippi State, than anything related to Tennessee.
His Mississippi roots actually were a match with Tennessee running backs coach Robert Gillespie, a Hattiesburg native and the Vols' top recruiter.
"We both kind of know the Mississippi ways and what people tend to do," Chandler said with a laugh, "so that was a unique connection."
Living in Nashville meant Chandler heard "all the time" from friends and strangers about how he needed to play for the Vols, but he said he just blocked out the chatter and followed his own path.
"Staying in state and playing for your home crowd and the people that have supported you all along, and having that opportunity to go in and possibly play as a freshman was something I wanted to do," he said. "That's honestly what made me excited about it. I was able to bond with the coaches and a lot of guys at Tennessee now. That's what made me excited about it.
"I hope to come in and just continue to take my game to the next level and continue to get bigger, faster and stronger and work on my body and get that in the right shape. I want to come in and compete for a starting spot, split reps or get a lot of playing time as a true freshman."
Euverard backed Chandler for immediate success at Tennessee for reasons beyond his natural talent.
"I've definitely coached some guys before that it's kind of gone to their head and thought they were above the team, and that's not the case with Ty," he explained. "We won a state championship his sophomore year, and his junior year the game he had in the state championship game and the way he played, just so many times you see people lose their minds or lose their character and forget where they came from.
"It's been refreshing to be around somebody that stayed steady and stayed the course and stayed a good person. It's just really fun to coach. I think that's what I'm going to miss the most, just how steady he was and just how he was always trying to stay on the right course."
Chandler's talent, though, is the biggest reason he's on course to make an early impact for the Vols.
"He's always tried to improve," Euverard said. "Some people are blessed with a lot of talent and can stay stagnant and hang there, but he's always worked hard and always tried to improve, and it's been a blessing to coach him. As far as a football player, he's the best I've ever coached, that's for sure.
"Speed, agility and vision. Some people have got a knack, some people have got an innate ability to play the game. I think that's what he's got."
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.