Offensive lineman Cade Mays is leaving Georgia and returning to his hometown to continue his college football career at Tennessee, where he will have an opportunity to play alongside his younger brother.
Tennessee announced Thursday that it had added Mays, who has spent the last two seasons at Georgia. Tennessee sent out a tweet with the Knoxville Catholic graduate's picture along with the message, “Welcome #HomeSweetHome, Cade!”
“As a guy with multiple years of starting experience on the offensive line in the SEC, Cade is a tremendous addition to our program," Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt said in a statement. “He's tough and he's powerful, and he is a versatile player who can line up anywhere on the offensive line. He will have an impact on the field, and he will also have a positive effect on our team and in the offensive line room with his leadership ability.”
Mays' attorney said the offensive lineman will have a strong case to be granted immediate eligibility in 2020.
Tom Mars, whose sports law practice has offices in Atlanta and Rogers, Arkansas, accused Georgia of leaking news that Mays' parents, Kevin and Melinda Mays, filed a lawsuit against the University of Georgia in December. The lawsuit was filed in the State Court of Clarke County about two years after an incident in which Kevin Mays lost part of his little finger after it was caught in a folding chair at a dinner for recruits at Sanford Stadium.
Kevin Mays was a team captain at Tennessee and an All-Southeastern Conference guard in 1994.
“The Mays family has never said a word to anyone about Kevin Mays’ lawsuit,” Mars said in an email to The Associated Press on Thursday. “The timing of the news stories about Mr. Mays’ lawsuit makes clear that UGA leaked this story to sports writers today after Cade delivered a letter to (coach) Kirby Smart late yesterday explaining the reason he’s leaving Kirby’s program.”
Added Mars: “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that UGA is continuing to take the low road about the lawsuit, but directing sports writers to Mr. Mays’ lawsuit set a new record low for UGA athletics.”
Spokesman Claude Felton released a statement Thursday from the Georgia athletic association, which denied leaking news of the lawsuit.
“Unlike Mr. Mars, we will not engage in a public discussion of a student eligibility matter, other than to wish the best for Cade and his family,” the statement said. “Although the Mays lawsuit is a public document available on the internet, no one at UGA was authorized to discuss it, we’re not aware of anyone who did so, and the reporter who broke the story of the lawsuit has stated that he was not notified by anyone at UGA.”
The lawsuit was first reported by UGAsports.com. The website's reporter, Anthony Dasher, told The Associated Press he was not informed of the lawsuit by anyone from Georgia.
Georgia has had three offensive linemen — left tackle Andrew Thomas, right tackle Isaiah Wilson and guard Solomon Kindley — announce they will leave school early and enter the NFL draft. Mays' exit is another blow to the position's outlook for 2020.
With Thomas sitting out, Mays (6-foot-6, 318 pounds) started at left tackle in Georgia's Sugar Bowl victory over Baylor. Mays played in all 14 games, starting 11, for Georgia (12-2) and would have been a key contributor to the line next season. He also started at both guard positions and right tackle and has played at center.
Mars said Mays' case is unique.
“Of all the waiver cases I’ve been involved in, I’ve never seen anything quite like this one,” Mars said. “And for the sake of everyone who loves college football, I hope I don’t ever see another one.”
Mars did not provide details of Mays' reasons for seeking the transfer.
Mays verbally committed to Tennessee as a high school student. He backed off that commitment in the fall of 2017, when Tennessee was in the midst of a 4-8 season that resulted in the firing of coach Butch Jones.
Mays' brother Cooper Mays, also from Knoxville Catholic, signed with Tennessee in December.
If Cade Mays gets a waiver enabling him to play for Tennessee in 2020, it would represent the latest boost for an offensive line that already is enjoying a pleasant offseason. All-SEC guard Trey Smith announced Thursday he was returning to school for his senior season rather than entering the draft, and center Brandon Kennedy has indicated he's been granted a sixth year of eligibility.
Tennessee's offense received even more good news Thursday when former Southern California wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. tweeted that he's joining the Vols as a graduate transfer. Jones had six receptions for 35 yards in 2019 after catching 24 passes for 266 yards and a touchdown in 2018.
AP Sports Writer Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.