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Vols who should be in CFB Hall of Fame

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Cannot say I disagree

On Monday, we wrote a post about the three former Vols plus Josh Heupel on the 2023 College Football Hall of Fame ballot, specifically pointing out how wrong it is that two Tennessee football players on that ballot aren’t already in there. Well, a deeper dive shows even more hate for the Vols by Hall of Fame voters.

An extensive breakdown of former UT players in the hall shows that far too many of them have actually been left out, and when you look at some of them who haven’t gone yet, it’s a downright travesty and an embarrassment for the sport. It’s time for somebody to be their advocate.

That’s what this post is going to do. Up front, it’s worth noting that this isn’t a ranking of the 10 best players not in the Hall. Criteria for best by Rocky Top standards and accomplishments for recognition by NCAA standards are different. Using that method, here are 10 Tennessee football players who should be in the College Football Hall of Fame.

It’s egregious that these 10 Tennessee football Volunteers aren’t already in the NCAA College Football Hall of Fame.


In 1972 and 1973, Ricky Townsend earned First Team All-American honors. He’s the first two-time All-American placekicker in Tennessee football history.

When it comes to Ricky Townsend, it’s relative. By today’s standards of placekicking, he wouldn’t be in, as he missed five extra points in his career and was 33-of-51 for his career. His best season was his sophomore year, when he went 12-of-19 on field goals and hit all 31 extra point attempts, and he oddly got worse each year after that.

Still, relativity matters, and based on what placekickers were doing at the time, Townsend was among the best. He made back to back All-American teams for a reason, and he was also First Team All-SEC in 1972. That’s enough to put him on this list.

Townsend is actually Tennessee football’s first placekicker to secure All-American honors and second specialist behind Ron Widby. He’s behind four other guys when it comes to UT’s greatest placekickers ever, but in terms of accolades earned during his time, there’s no doubt he belongs in the Hall of Fame.


A 1999 First Team All-SEC selection, Tee Martin led Tennessee football to the national championship in 1998 the year after Peyton Manning left.

Although he doesn’t have any All-American honors, Tee Martin did earn First Team All-SEC, and what he did for the Vols coming out of Peyton Manning’s shadow has to count for something. It’s enough to say he belongs in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Martin didn’t just lead Tennessee football to the national championship in 1998 with a 13-0 record. He became the first Black quarterback from the SEC to win the national title. In fact, he became the first African American quarterback to start the whole season and lead a team to an SEC Championship outright.

Walter Lewis of the Alabama Crimson Tide captured a share of the SEC in 1981, as did Reggie Slack of the Auburn Tigers in 1988 and 1989. The Vols themselves had Tony Robinson partially play on the 1985 SEC Championship team, starting the first five games, and Sterling Henton started the first five games of 1989.

However, the 1989 Tennessee and Auburn teams had to split with an Alabama team led by Gary Hollingsworth. Martin won it outright and then capture the natty. He also set an NCAA record at the with 24 straight completions, 23 straight in one game, when he went 23-of-24 against the South Carolina Gamecocks. That’s all enough to be in the Hall.



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