The chalkboard wall in Ollie Lane’s home paints a clear picture of the life of Lane's – it's one of ball.
In the fall, it features two schedules. The Austin-Peay schedule where older brother and Gibbs alum Hunter plays, and Ollie's Gibbs High School schedule. In 2018, that “G” schedule will become a Power T rundown, as Gibbs will have its first SEC football player in 30 years.
Ollie Lane fulfilled a lifelong dream Wednesday, committing to Tennessee.
“It's home,” Ollie said. “It's where I grew up. It's been a dream of mine in the making. It's very exciting for me.”
After another day on campus Saturday, the Lane family left Tennessee's practice with a decision in hand. Parents Chris and Barbara Lane knew it but never said it. Ollie had known it for several weeks, and in the 20-minute car ride back to Corryton, Ollie told his parents he was done and that he would spend his next four years in Orange and White.
“He knew, but we never pushed,” Barbara said. “When I think (how) I can be there in 20 minutes it's a great feeling. I couldn't be happier.
“We are so excited. The process has been great. I have had a lot of people ask me how hectic has it been, and all I can tell you is that it's been a great kind of hectic. It's been so fun. Knowing that he's going to be here is an amazing feeling. He has had this in his heart for a long time and we are very, very excited.”
A FOOTBALL FAMILY
For Ollie Lane, it's never been about him. For the Lane’s, it’s been about the football family. Their own and their extended family. For the last seven years, Barbara Lane has helped feed the Gibbs High School team on game weeks. Chris has been president of the booster club. He has helped paint the field. He's done Hudl pages for Ollie's teammates. The two brothers have worked out together, encouraged and supported each other.
“Football is a small community,” Chris said. “Only a certain few play it. And even fewer go on to play it at the next level. We have been fortunate in that the boys have had really good coaches all the way through. I think it has helped them become dedicated young men. They put their mind to something and they do it. Both boys don't do anything halfway. That's always impressive to me. They stick too it even if it's hard.
“I think it's a big deal for us to be around football. If we didn't do everything we need to do in parenting or we miss something, I guarantee you a coach is going to catch that. We have been fortunate because it has made them who they are.”
Added Barbara, “Sometimes when we see how the boys are with people. You have people come up and tell you that you have great boys. Sometimes we ask each other what did we do differently than anyone else? I think football families have helped raised our boys, too. We have been around it forever.”
As Lane put together his plan to announce his college choice Wednesday, he wanted a couple of things. He wanted to first call coaches around the country who had recruited him to personally tell them of his decision and to thank them for recruiting him. Secondly, when he publicly declared to the Vols, his teammates had to be involved.
“They mean so much to me,” Lane said of his football brothers. “They are the reason I am where I am and who I am. They are my everything. I wouldn't be me without my teammates and without Gibbs High School. I wanted them to know how much they mean to me.
“My parents drilled it into me. When I was little all my coaches and now (Gibbs head) coach (Brad) Conley and my offensive line coach (Brent) Wright teach us that you can't win without the team. It's a team effort. It's not an I effort. You could have the best player in the country on the team, but if they aren't united then they are going to be the worst team in country.”
THE LANE WAY
From the challenge of finding a uniform for Ollie in rec league ball to traveling the country this spring seeing schools, the journey for the Lane's has been a blessing. Ollie took his first recruiting trip as a tag-along with Hunter, who was at the top of the call list when Ollie knew he was going to be a Vol.
Ollie learned a lot from Hunter about the recruiting process and about how to work. It was actually Hunter who saw bigger things in his younger brother before anyone else.
“When my brother went to Austin Peay, my dad said I would love for Ollie to be able to come up here and play with you. My brother looked my dad in the eye and said, ‘He's not playing here. He's playing somewhere a lot bigger. I know he will,” Ollie recalled. “When I got the first opportunity from Vanderbilt, it hit me then that if my first offer is from the SEC then there has to be more out there for me. With the help of my parents on this recruiting journey, I have just been able to see it grow and grow every week. I never believed it would become as big as it has, but at the same time it's been very exciting. I'm just so blessed.”
As his recruitment took off, Ollie remained true to himself by staying at Gibbs. He was approached by some about transferring to a school that threw the ball more to show off his talents as a lineman, but Ollie politely turned down every opportunity.
“With my brother playing here as a senior and I was a freshman, it was definitely big for me to get that one year to play with him. I love my brother. He's one of my best friends. I knew no matter what I was going to go to college somewhere from Gibbs,” he said. “Why leave the Gibbs community when it's been so good for my family?”
Entrenched in the community, Ollie used the offseason time to work at camps and focus on pass protection. With a 6-5, 290-pound frame, a mature mindset and a great work ethic, Ollie received offers from half the SEC, the Big 10, the Pac-12, the ACC, and two Ivy League schools. Despite all the calls and attention, Lane has remained grounded — something he credits to his parents.
“They have been the best parents you could ever ask me,” Ollie declared. “They love me, they take care of me and they have taught me the best things in life. They have had their fair share of hectic moments in this process, but they have been there with answers to any questions that I have had. And if they didn't know the answer they would help me find it.”
Barbara said she has been in awe by how her son has handled the process and Chris said he's more proud of how his son handled all the attention than he is of the offers themselves.
“It's funny. I think in the back of your mind you always think how would I act if that were me. As a 17-year-old kid, I don't think I would have handled it the way he has handled it,” Chris explained.
“He's been very mature. He's really looked at things from a business or professional mentality. We sit down at a table with coaches, and in my job I do a lot of interviews and I know they are interviewing him. He's hitting the questions and is coming up with evidence to back them up. I'm just amazed. When we were talking to coach (Larry) Scott the first time we met him and he was asking Ollie things about football and how you do certain things. Ollie is rattling things off and then goes beyond that. I saw a smile come across coach Scott's face and then he reaches up and gives Ollie a high five and says, ‘That's what I'm talking about.’ I'm blown away. I could have never done that. I'm still in awe when I talk to coach Jones because it's coach Jones. Ollie is just very comfortable with it all. I'm amazed by that and I'm pretty lucky to be his dad.”
LETTERS TELL THE LANE STORY
Following any on campus trip or visit by a coach to the high school, Ollie would write a thank you note to the coaches who he spent time with. It's a gesture that Chris said his mother passed on to him and his sons. It's one that's surprised many college coaches around the country in the last nine months.
“I just want them to know how much it meant to me,” Ollie offered. “When I go different places and they show me great hospitality, I want them to know how much I appreciate their time and the respect I have for their program. I just want them to know how important it was to me that they would take the time to visit with me.
“I will get a couple of texts from coaches after I seen them. Some coaches have told me that it shows what kind of a man that I am and they really appreciate it. It's something my parents taught me. Just be polite and let them know how I feel. I don't think anything says that better than a thank you card.”
So it's fitting that it's a letter Lane wrote as a high school freshman forecasted his college future. And it's why today, the Lane family chalkboard — which has featured drawn logo's of every school that has offered — now features just a Power T.
Ollie Lane, who will enroll at mid-term, has found Rocky Top to be his home thanks to a community and a football family that has made him who he is, pushing him to turn a dream into a reality.