Tennessee Wolf Pack: Eli walking on for Vols
There were scholarship offers from some MAC-type schools, interest from a couple of Big Ten programs and even a verbal pledge to Eastern Michigan.
Yet Eli Wolf couldn't shake his dream of playing alongside his brother, Ethan, at the University of Tennessee.
So in the same week that the Vols rewarded former walk-on Alex Ellis with scholarship papers, Eli Wolf declared he would become a walk-on on Rocky Top, with the chance to spend three years in the program alongside big brother, Tennessee's starting tight end.
"It's awesome; it's a great opportunity for me. One, to be able to play with my brother. And then also to be able to play under coaches like Coach (Mark) Elder and (Butch) Jones, it's great," Wolf told VolQuest.com on Christmas Eve. "I've been down multiple times to watch Ethan play and got to hang out with the guys and it's a great place. I love everybody down there. I'm really excited about it."
Wolf's ties with Elder run deep; after all, Elder is the Tennessee assistant who had recruited Wolf at Cincinnati and then helped land him on Rocky Top.
And in speaking to VolQuest.com earlier this week, Elder --- who obviously cannot speak about any prospect until he is enrolled on campus and signed --- could not say enough about the elder Wolf.
"He's been great to coach. He's hungry, wants to be the best. And he's willing to put the work in to do it," Elder said of Ethan Wolf. "He's what you want out of a kid. Someone that has the desire to be great and is willing to back it up with effort and dedication. He's a complete tight end. You can do just about everything with him. Blocking, pass-catching wise, he's capable of doing those things.
"I felt really strong about him as a football player and as a kid. He's got a great family, and they're wonderful people. When I got the opportunity to watch him play senior year, it stood out how dominant a player he was live and in person. Really at that point, I knew we had gotten a great get."
So what type of player is the younger Wolf? Well, he's been a two-time Ohio State Track Championships participant, and he's athletic enough to have played wide receiver at Minster (Ohio) High School.
"I feel my athleticism and speed [are strengths]; I played receiver in high school, and I feel like if I can transition to tight end then having that athleticism will be key," said Eli Wolf, who runs the 100m, 200m, 4x100m and 4x200m relays.
Wolf noted it also stood out to him that Tennessee both fostered a family environment and had displayed a willingness to play walk-ons --- such as both Ellis and Jacob Gilliam, the offensive lineman who earned a scholarship in May.
"It was huge. The first day I came, a bunch of players came up and introduced themselves to me. They were really friendly, and then just to know that Coach Elder is a really highly respected coach, is really relatable to the kids. That's a big part of that. Every coach I talked to, every time I talked to them about Coach Elder, they always told me, 'He's the best. He's awesome.' So that got me real excited," he said. "Especially with Alex Ellis [just getting rewarded]. He's a great player, and they're playing him. I know I have to work really hard to do that and I'm looking forward to that challenge also. This year they had three, sometimes four (tight ends) rotating. That got me excited for the opportunity to show them what I can do and hopefully earn my way onto the field."