The feeling was there from the moment he stepped foot on campus.
Coveted junior college defensive end Dorian Gerald was all smiles as he toured Rocky Top with his family last month. He returned back to the College of the Canyons near Los Angeles, Calif., and the feeling never went away.
"You don't know how much I've prayed on it," Gerald said. "I just asked God to give me a sign and everything points Tennessee to me. My family thinks I should go with my heart and that's where God leads me. It's just like home up there. I couldn't tell the difference in my family. They were happy and that is everything to me."
Gerald has a tremendous relationship with both Walt Wells and Brady Hoke. The tandem has been instrumental on the recruiting trail in just their first year in Knoxville. The news of his commitment to Tennessee hit the staff and their excitement would be an understatement.
"He's (Wells) excited," Gerald said. "Everyone on the staff is excited. They say I'm one of the top guys they need to come in and win and change things. They feel like I'm a guy that can come in and make an impact."
Gerald wasn't very aware of what Tennessee offered before the recruiting process. He did know a little bit thanks to his dad, and now he knows he looks good in orange, too.
"Most definitely," Gerald said. "When I posted the pictures of the jerseys on social media, people were saying that looks like me. That orange and grey. I just can't wait to get to campus and get to work.
"My dad has been a Tennessee fan forever. That's always been his favorite football team. What I knew was I've been watching Derek Barnett and trying to do some things he does. I watched him a lot this past season."
Gerald exited high school and had ZERO offers. Yep, that's right, and now he commits to Tennessee with Georgia, LSU, South Carolina and countless others. So what happened since he left Florence (S.C.) and headed for JUCO?
"I've been asked that question so much," Gerald said. "I'd say it's a lot of hard work and prayer. I have been making the same plays since high school. The numbers have only gotten bigger. I was a little small out of high school maybe, but I don't think that should have stopped anyone from offering me. I've put on about 35-40 pounds and grown an inch. That's the only thing that has changed."
Gerald joins a 2018 recruiting class that features the likes of Brant Lawless, D'Andre Litaker, Greg Emerson and JaMarcus Chatman along the defensive line. He knows he will have to come in and be ready to go to work.
"I look at like everyone has to come in and work regardless," Gerald said. "I'm a little bit older and I have a little bit more experience. Any transition to that type of level will be a transition. I just have to come in and work."
And with this decision behind him, Gerald can focus on his craft and his second year of junior college. All the while, reaching for his future on Rocky Top.
"It gets a lot off you when you have a family that wants you," Gerald said. "Especially when you want to be with them just as bad. It's a lot off my chest. It's amazing to have a true family at Tennessee and I love it over there."
Strongside defensive end