Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt has lost two starters to the NFL draft. Last week, John Kelly announced his decision to depart for the NFL and nickelback Rashaan Gaulden is joining him in that decision.
Gaulden announced his decision on Twitter Wednesday afternoon. It was a decision that he felt best after talking to his family.
"Talking to my family and making the best move especially coming of of two pretty good seasons it's good to make that move when you're healthy and fresh," Gaulden said.
A versatile playmaker in the back end of the secondary, Gaulden believes his game will translate well to the NFL.
"My versatility makes me league ready and how I've had guys like Cam Sutton and Justin Coleman come before me and break the game down for me film study wise is why I took the next step this year," Gaulden said. "Obviously improvements I need to make is adjusting to the unknown just embracing the challenge my DB coach's willie Martinez and Charlton Warren have given me the tools to be a great DB."
In 2017 as a full time starter, Gaulden had 65 tackles, 3.5 TFL's, an interception, 6 pass break up's, 3 forced fumbles and 3 fumble recoveries. In 2016, Gaulden had 68 tackles, 6.5 TFL's and 4 pass break up's.
Looking back, he has plenty that he's proud of and that includes a moment that didn't necessarily involve him.
"Just how passionate the fans are the locker room with my brothers, going to battle, dealing with adversity," Gaulden said. "And then there is Derek Barnett's sack last year in the bowl game which was one of the proudest moments I've had as a Vol."
The change in coaches at Tennessee gave Gaulden pause, but the chance to live out his dream was to much to pass up.
"It was a tough decision with the new staff coming in knowing Coach Pruitt resume," Gaulden said. "Knowing how he's bringing in one of the best staffs in the country but I had to make a decision that best fitted myself and my family."
And now he turns his attention to training and getting ready for likely the NFL combine and Tennessee's Pro day this spring.
"I'm very excited but there is a lot of work that needs to be done and that's all I can think about is putting in the work to separate myself," Gaulden said. "Also chase some of the great defensive backs names in the league this year and make a name for myself."