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'Left it all on the field': After stellar senior season at Gainesville, linebacker Jeremiah Telander ready to start his career at Tennessee
Red Elephants' standout had two sacks, 13 tackles in state championship game loss to No. 1 Hughes
Gainesville's Jeremiah Telander (2) strips the ball from Houston County quarterback Antwaan HIll Jr. during the Class 6A state quarterfinals on Nov. 25, 2022 at City Park Stadium. - photo by Bill Murphy

Gainesville senior Jeremiah Telander is leaving high school with no regrets. 

Fresh off a phenomenal performance for the second-ranked Red Elephants (14-1) in the Class 6A state championship loss Friday to No. 1 Hughes (15-0), he’s ready to take the next step as he prepares to get a jumpstart on his college football career at the University of Tennessee. 

An early enrollee with the sixth-ranked Volunteers (10-2), Telander will head up to Knoxville, Tennessee on Thursday, which will kick off a month where he’s going back and forth for football and visiting with family for Christmas. 

In the final game of his high school career, Telander was a menace in the backfield, recording 13 tackles (four for a loss), two sacks and blocked two point after attempts against Hughes, with Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel watching from the sideline in Atlanta. 

It was a fitting end to his one year at Gainesville, where he recorded 112 tackles (25 for a loss) and forced five fumbles as its program made the state championship game for the first time since 2012. 

“I left my heart on the field,” said Telander, who spent his first three years of high school at North Hall. “This whole season was amazing. Even though we didn’t win it, I couldn’t have imagined it would have been this special.”

After enrolling at Gainesville nearly a year ago, Telander left a permanent mark on the Gainesville High football program. 

Telander said he’s forever grateful for the opportunity to play for first-year Red Elephants coach Josh Niblett and his staff. 

“I remember coach Niblett would hold his hand up and snap his fingers together and said, ‘the playoffs will be here before you know it,’” Telander said. 

Gainesville’s standout linebacker said he learned to handle many different responsibilities on the field, whether it be pass coverage, blitzing, stopping the run or containing the middle of the field, just like he’ll need to do in order to get on the field at Tennessee. 

And every week, Telander had a major impact on the outcome, especially making the opposing quarterback uncomfortable in the backfield.

The Region 7-3A Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore and junior for the Trojans, Telander in 2022 pressured some of the state’s best quarterbacks, such as Houston County’s Antwaan Hill Jr. and Hughes’ Prentiss Noland, both major Division-I prospects. 

Telander made the move to Gainesville in hopes of getting to fine tune his craft against elite talent. 

In the process, Telander made his mark as one of the school’s best ever to play in the middle of the defense.

He enrolled at Gainesville High shortly before it hired the six-time state champion Niblett from Hoover High in Alabama.  

“The opportunity to play at Gainesville was a blessing from God,” Telander said. “When I made the decision, it was kind of an unknown thing at first. ... But it made me a better person spiritually, as a football player, as a student and as a man.”

Telander made his pledge to play at Tennessee on June 26. 

Now with his senior season in the books, he’s ready to turn the page. 

As one of 15 early enrollees for the Volunteers, he’ll get to be on hand for their team practice ahead of the Orange Bowl against Clemson. 

Then on Christmas Day, Telander said, he’ll fly to Miami to join the program for the remainder of its preparation and get to be on the sideline for the game at Hard Rock Stadium on Dec. 30.

After Christmas, the 17-year-old will get to spend a couple more weeks back at home, then return to Knoxville to begin his first semester as a college student on Jan. 20. 

Right now, he plans to major in business at Tennessee. 

Telander wants to become adept as learning the NIL (Name, Image and Likeness) market to set himself up for future endorsement opportunities. 

“I’m going to keep putting on for Gainesville,” Telander said. 

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