Tennessee coach Josh Heupel shares a moment with Cade Mays. Photo courtesy of Tennessee Athletics/UTsports.com.
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WATCH: Cade Mays ‘ecstatic’ to see Georgia win national title, but no regrets about leaving

MOBILE, Ala. — Cade Mays says he was happy to see Georgia win the national championship, and the former Bulldog has no regrets about transferring to Tennessee.

Those two sentiments wouldn’t seem to go together, but as Mays explained at the Senior Bowl this week, there were special circumstances involved in him leaving Coach Kirby Smart and his friends following his 2019 sophomore campaign.

“The experience I had at Tennessee, being able to play with my little brother, being 20 minutes from my family, seeing my 6-year-old brother grow up and have a relationship with them, I wouldn’t trade that for the world,” said Mays, who is originally from Knoxville and had committed to the Vols before flipping to UGA.

“There’s no price tag you can put on that, no amount of national championships you can put on that,” Mays said. “My little brother’s first start, I was playing right next to him, and you can’t put a price tag on stuff like that.”

Georgia was recruiting Mays’ younger brother, Cooper, but the way that signing class worked out the Bulldogs had filled their quota of offensive linemen and were not able to extend a commitable offer.

“Throughout my collegiate career, as turbulent as it has been, I have no regrets,” Mays said. “I went to Georgia for two years, made great friends, great relationships, learned a lot of good things, got the chance to play with my little brother, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

“No regrets, just living life day by day.”

Mays, a 2018 FWAA Freshman of the Year, made the decision to leave in January of 2020 on the heels of the 26-14 Sugar Bowl win over Baylor.

Mays is the first to admit, the first time he faced Georgia, in the aftermath of the lawyer’s harsh words, was especially challenging.

“In 2020 there was a lot of emotion around that game, and I think I let that get the best of me,” Mays said. “Then in 2021, I had a really good game, played solid, and seeing all my boys after the game, it seemed like everybody bombarded me. We chopped it up for a minute, and it was so good to see those guys.”

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No doubt, Jamaree Salyer said he enjoyed spending time with Mays this week during practices for the “National Team,” which features almost all of the SEC players including six from Georgia.

The Senior Bowl game is at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday (TV: NFL Network) at Hancock Whitney Stadium on the University of South Alabama campus.

Mays has been challenged throughout the week in practice, going up against players like Georgia defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt.

But it seemed in talking to him that Mays has matured as a person as well as improved as a player.

“I think I’ve grown as a person, just coming into my own, turning into a man,” Mays said. “Through hard work, dedication, taking things I can learn day-in and day-out, I’ve transformed my game from good to a lot better. It’s been a long road, it’s been good, I’ve enjoyed it

“You only live one life, and you want to live your best life and not have any regrets and enjoy what you do, and I can say that. "

Tennessee, meanwhile, also turned a corner of sorts this season after enduring a 3-7 campaign and well-documented NCAA investigation Mays’ junior year.

“I had a great experience at Tennessee, (but) my junior year it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to,” Mays said. “This next year, we came back and changed things around and shocked a lot of people so that was really cool.

" Coach (Josh) Heupel did an unbelievable job changing the culture and face of the program, and bringing it back to what Tennessee football is supposed to look and feel like.”

Mays said he was “absolutely” pulling for Georgia in the postseason, too, happy to see the program win its first national title in 41 years.

“Those guys are still some of my best friends, I talk to them all the time, and it’s been so good to see the guys here,” Mays said.

“Those are my boys, so I was rooting for them, I was ecstatic when they pulled it out. It’s been a long time coming for them.”

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