Brian Kimbrow grabbed the University of Tennessee cap, and fitted it loosely on his head. It didn’t stay there long as he cracked a smile before he removed it.
“It doesn’t fit,” he said.
With that, the running back from Memphis East High School chose a Vanderbilt hat and playfully capped off a trio of verbal commitments for the Commodores on Friday at D1 Sports Training Complex in Franklin.
Ensworth wide receiver/defensive back Cory Batey and McGavock defensive end Caleb Azubike joined Kimbrow in pledging to the Commodores in front of a dozen local and national media outlets, along with nearly 50 family and friends.
The decisions are not written in stone. The high school seniors won’t make their commitments official until they sign a national letter of intent and fax it into Vanderbilt coach James Franklin next February.
So, they could easily change their minds in the next seven months – which happens on a regular basis in the world of college football recruiting.
Kimbrow, however, doesn’t think that will be the case for him. If Vanderbilt does receive his national letter of intent he arguably will be one of the highest heralded recruits the Commodores have ever landed. The 5-foot-9, 165-pounder is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 2 running back prospect in the country.
He has been clocked at 4.24 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Last fall, he rushed for 1,557 yards and scored 15 touchdowns.
“I have been down there [to Vanderbilt] like six times and it seemed like every time I went down there it seemed like things just got better and better,” Kimbrow said. “I built a relationship with the coaches and the players and that played a big factor. I thought about the education and my family can come see me. ... Most people think I am going to opt out of my commitment but I am not.
"Once I am committed to something, I am committed 100 percent. So I am sure on this.”
Kimbrow didn’t receive an offer from Vanderbilt until after Franklin was hired as the head coach last December. Kimbrow chose the Commodores over defending national champion Auburn, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Cincinnati and Tennessee. He narrowed his final three choices down to VU, Mississippi State and Tennessee. He said falsely picking the Volunteers cap was a stab at “a lot of UT fans and people at UT.”
“The fans for some reason they disliked me,” Kimbrow said. “I don’t understand why. I didn’t want to be in area where I am not liked. I want to be in area where am I liked and I’m appreciated and wanted.”
Kimbrow met Batey and Azubike this past winter at a camp run by Byron De’Vinner, who is advising all three players and was on hand Friday. The trio connected again in March and when they realized Vanderbilt was at the top of everyone’s list, they decided to commit together.
“We just felt like we can change things at Vanderbilt,” Azubike said.
Azubike is a 6-foot-4, 232-pounder who also received offers from Mississippi State, Boston College and Kentucky – where his cousin, Collins Ukwu, is a defensive end.
Azubike said he plans to make an official visit to Boston College in the fall and possibly Mississippi State, where he has visited already but not officially.
“I don’t think anything is going to push me away from Vanderbilt,” Azubike said. “I just want to be sure I made the right choice. I don’t want to end up regretting it. I know I am probably not going to regret it but I am just taking a visit up to Boston College to see how it is and maybe Mississippi State to give them one last chance. But I doubt I am going to change my mind.”
Batey is 6-foot-1 and 184 pounds and caught 47 passes for 687 yards and recorded 42 tackles last fall as Ensworth capture a state championship.
Like Azubike and Kimbrow, Batey said Vanderbilt wasn’t high on his list before Franklin and the new regime stepped in. Batey chose the Commodores over Southeastern Conference foes Kentucky, South Carolina and LSU.
“The energy, the genuineness, just Coach Franklin – he is just a good guy,” Batey said. “He is just approachable, affable. Everybody is just affable, even the equipment managers.
"... I think Vanderbilt is really getting on the map now. Maybe this should bring some more recruits in. They just have a lot of energy.”