Tra Wilkins could have been a Georgia Bulldawg. The linebacker from Stone Mountain could have been a hometown hero. He could have played alongside his cousin, Mecole Hardman, the wide receiver who scored two touchdowns in the National Championship Game. Instead of following in his family’s footsteps, Wilkins will create his own legacy at Kentucky.
Last night the three-star prospect announced on Twitter a commitment to the University of Kentucky, a decision that incited plenty of push-back from friends and family.
“I’m not going to lie, it was tough,” Wilkins said in a conversation with KSR. Even though Hardman and others wanted him in Athens, Wilkins did not want to play in the shadow of his cousin. “I want to start my own legacy. I want to start my own path. I think Kentucky would be the best place to do that at.”
Wilkins made his decision last week during an official visit to Kentucky. After committing to UK’s coaches, he followed through with a scheduled unofficial visit to Georgia, but could not be budged. Kentucky’s pitch was too appealing to turn away.
Recruited by wide receivers coach Michael Smith, the chance for early playing time enticed the inside linebacker. Jordan Jones enters his final season this fall and Kash Daniel only has two more years of eligibility remaining.
“We’ve been talking for a while. I got a chance to come up there and they treated me nice. There’s good people up there. I liked it and I don’t have any regrets doing what I did.”
During his visit, Wilkins was paired with another inside linebacker from Georgia, Jamin Davis. What put UK over the top was the camaraderie around the football facility.
“The people. Every school has academics. It was really about the people there. Plus, they want to see me succeed. I just like it up there. It’s a good place to be at. Coach Stoops is cool too.” Wilkins added that playing for a defensive-minded head coach was a must. “That’s why I didn’t think twice about Louisville.”
It takes quite a bit of cojones to spurn the family business and leave the in-state football powerhouse to play for an SEC East foe. Finding some swagger is not a problem for Tra Wilkins.
A self-described jack-of-all trades that can “handle any type of defense,” he called his shot and said his Stephenson Jaguars would finish the season at Mercedes-Benz Stadium as State Champions. When asked what Kentucky fans can expect to see him bring to the Big Blue Nation, without pausing he responded, “a Butkus Award.”
Wilkins will be pressured to flip his commitment. He even has a trip with his high school teammates to Auburn planned for this weekend. While some fans will worry, Wilkins plans on graduating in December and enrolling at Kentucky in January.
Wilkins’ family wanted him to go to Georgia, but now it’s “time to turn it up a level with my Wildcat family.”