Alontae

(Photo via Andrew Ferguson/UT Athletics)

Cornerback Alontae Taylor thought about leaving the University of Tennessee football program once; he decided not to entertain that thought a second time.

Taylor, a Manchester native and former Coffee County Central standout, previously decommitted from UT after the school fired Butch Jones and hired Jeremy Pruitt. But ultimately, he decided to stay true to his word and honor his original commitment.

When asked during SEC Media Days if he considered leaving the program again during the mass exodus of transfers UT saw after Pruitt was fired following an investigation for recruiting violations, Taylor was candid in his response.

“This is my state,” Taylor said. “I’m from the state of Tennessee, and the University of Tennessee means a lot to me. Wearing orange and white is a privilege. Wearing that Power T on my chest is bigger than me. Staying here versus going somewhere else was never really too hard of a decision to make. 

“I knew I wanted to stay at University of Tennessee, and I tried to keep as many here as I could. Those who left, I don’t have any hard feelings for those guys. I wish them the best.”

Tennessee saw 29 players leave the program following the end of the 2020 season, including notable players such as Jarrett Guarantano, Ty Chandler, Wanya Morris, Quavaris Crouch, Eric gray, Henry To’o To’o, Keyshawn Lawrence and Chayce Bishop — many of whom Taylor developed close friendships with.

“We knew that it was a big dent into our team when everything happened,” Taylor said. “…I’m big on making sure you do what’s best for your family and yourself. Seeing those guys go was hard just because we built that relationship, and from that, we’ll have a family forever.”

Losing many of their key position players, the Vols were picked to finish sixth by Phil Steele and fifth by Athlon Sports and USA Today. It’s clear new head coach Josh Heupel has his work cut out for him trying to break in new starters at quarterback, running back, receiver, and so on. 

But one thing Heupel has done in his short time in Knoxville is inspire the players who stayed to rally around being part of the solution.

“The biggest thing whenever he came to talk to us about what he wanted for this program ... was how he said it was going to take actions and not words,” Taylor added.

Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_

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