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June 29, 2009When he arrived at the University of Tennessee's one-day camp for lineman earlier this month, Marques Pair was a relative unknown in the ultra-competitive world of football recruiting.
A good performance in front of myriad media outlets, not to mention the Volunteers' coaching staff, changed things for the athletic but raw 6-foot-6-inch, 255-pounder from Sumter, S.C. On Monday, just as Pair's recruitment was reaching a bit of a frenzied state with increased interest from UT, South Carolina, North Carolina, Clemson, N.C. State and Auburn, Pair ended the suspense when he pledged to UT.
"Pretty much just when I went to their camp, I did my thing that I was told to do by the coaches and it just went from there. They liked me, like what they see and I liked their camp," said the well-spoken Pair, who also is solid in the classroom with nearly a 3.0 GPA. "I started talking to some coaches and players and the next thing you know, I got the offer and I committed."
Pair's commitment was the Vols' second in the trenches on Monday; fellow three-star offensive lineman Zach Fulton of Illinois, the No. 21 guard according to Rivals.com, also declared for Tennnessee. It's also the second-straight year UT has plucked a rising, under-rated offensive lineman from the Palmetto State. Last year JerQuari Schofield pledged early to the Vols and held firm. Schofield was earlier this year called among the most impressive linemen in the country according to UT tackles and tight ends coach James Cregg.
Pair's performance at camp only enhanced his confidence and solidified his relationship with UT quarterbacks coach David Reaves, who had first studied Pair while still on Steve Spurrier's South Carolina staff.
"My confidence was already up but that camp was really good," Pair said. "David Reaves was already recruiting me from South Carolina and when he moved over to Tennessee, he still had confidence in me. He told the head coach about me, and it just went from there."
So what was Reaves' reaction when Pair committed?
"He was excited, but he was ready to go ahead and tell coach (Lane) Kiffin."
Pair simply was elated to bring an end to his recruiting process before it dominated his summer.
"It feels a whole lot better, a whole lot better," he said. "I've got that monkey off my back and can get ready for the season. I want to help the offense become No. 1 in the state, win a state championship and go off to college."
Though Pair had been a relative unknown before the Vols' camp, one recruiting expert on Monday evening prior to Pair's commitment to Tennessee praised Pair's agility, overall athleticism and ability to improve - indicating he fully expected Pair to far outperform his current three-star status at the college level.
"I've got quick feet and long arms, can contain the pass rush," Pair said of his assets. "I want to work on upper body strength and keeping people off the ball.
"I've become a student of the game, watching film constantly and study opponents every chance I get."
And Pair already has opened some lines of communication with current UT offensive linemen, who told him he wouldn't regret choosing to play for the Vols.
"I talked to two of the offensive linemen who were at the camp and they said the offensive line coaches (Jim Chaney and Mitch Browning), the head coach and offensive coordinator (Chaney) know what they're doing," Pair said, "and if you come here, you'll be getting the best coaching in world. That stuck in my head and we went from there."