By Steve Williams
A lot of folks – fans and media types – have been directing their attention to the quarterback battle at Tennessee and who the starter might be for the 2017 football season.
It’s indeed the most high-profile position on the team, but let’s not forget that whoever ends up being the backup is only one play from being the starter.
Hopefully, head coach Butch Jones has repeatedly reminded both Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano of that.
More than once since the end of last season, I’ve heard speculation the No. 2 guy in the battle may pack up and head off to find a starting job elsewhere. In my opinion, that would be selfish and could be risky.
Football is a collision sport. Injuries happen all the time. Quinten and Jarrett know that. They witnessed it up close just last season.
Still, it wouldn’t hurt if they heard the story of the 1994 season.
Once upon a time, fifth-year senior Jerry Colquitt of Oak Ridge finally got to be the starting quarterback for Tennessee as the Vols opened on the road against UCLA. But seven plays into the game, Colquitt went down with a season-ending knee injury.
Baseball/football guy Todd Helton took over. A few games later, Helton was injured and freshman Peyton Manning made his debut.
The story goes Peyton, football smart beyond his years but still a little wet behind the ears, entered his first huddle with a rah-rah message.
“Ah, just shut up and call the play,” he was quickly told by Jason Layman, a burly veteran offensive lineman from Sevier County.
Hopefully, the Vols won’t have a quarterback get hurt this upcoming season.
Best case scenario: The starter has the reins of the offense from the season opener to the end of the year. And the backup gets to play now and then or enough to keep the rust off, just in case.
This probably doesn’t sound too appealing to the potential No. 2 guy. But remember this: it’s well known in the game of football that the backup quarterback is the most popular player on the team, the fans’ favorite. Not only do they believe he can get the job done, he’s also held in high esteem for his loyalty to the team.
OUR PLEASURE: With the Kentucky Derby coming up this Saturday, some Knoxvillians like myself, still remember the 1975 Run for the Roses when Foolish Pleasure, owned by Knoxville’s John L. Greer, won the first leg of the Triple Crown.
Greer, a graduate of UT’s law school, was part owner of Kern’s Bakery and a Knoxville judge.
Foolish Pleasure, trained by LeRoy Jolley and riden by Jacinto Vasquez, finished strong in the 101st Derby to defeat runner-up Avatar.
Many Knoxvillians, of course, were pulling for Greer’s horse to win the Triple Crown. Foolish Pleasure was heavily favored to win the Preakness but finished second to Master Derby. He also was runner-up to Avatar in the Belmont Stakes.
But on May 3, 1975, Foolish Pleasure put Knoxville on the map for horse racing.
ANOTHER HEIDI: When The Vol Network could not continue its radio broadcast of Tennessee’s baseball game at Texas A&M when it went into the 13th inning tied 3-3 on Sunday, April 23, because it had to air “The Nation,” another Vol Network production, I immediately thought I had experienced another Heidi moment.
Please let me explain.
In November of 1968, an NFL game pitting the New York Jets at Oakland Raiders ran long and NBC TV broke away from its football coverage on the east coast to air Heidi, a children’s movie, which was scheduled to start at 7 that Sunday night.
The Raiders scored two touchdowns in the final minute to win the game 43-32. I remember hearing about many east coast viewers, who weren’t happy about losing the telecast or the game, flooding the NBC switchboard with phone calls of complaint.
I had been listening to the radio broadcast of the Tennessee game all afternoon but didn’t get to hear the end of it. I found out later the Vols had won 5-3 in 14 innings.
Could you imagine The Vol Network ever pulling the plug on a UT football game before it was over?