Nearly 40 years later, the country music star has a documentary of him to go with it.
After knocking out his first film for ESPN a year ago, the network came back for more after it couldn’t shake the image of a young Chesney in a Tennessee jersey with Condredge Holloway’s No. 7 out of its mind. And what it got was “The Color Orange: The Condredge Holloway Story,” an in-depth look at the Vols legend and first black starting quarterback in the SEC, which will debut Wednesday at the Tennessee Theatre before a national broadcast on Sunday (TV: ESPN, 8 p.m.).
Kenny Chesney started with just a jersey of his hero.
“It’s not every day that you get to make a film about a person that you looked up to,” Chesney said in a teleconference. “I grew up in East Tennessee, and in the ’70s we didn’t have ESPN. We didn’t have a pro allegiance, there was no NFL team in Knoxville, there was no Major League Baseball team in Knoxville. As a kid, what we had was Tennessee football and we wrapped our arms around it. That’s where my heroes were formed, that’s where I learned how to dream, it’s where I learned to love sports like I do.
“I would literally have an orange jersey and have my friends tear it so I could look like him, and it wasn’t a tear-away jersey, but I wanted it to look like it was a tear-away jersey. I had the orange No. 7 out in the backyard, and that’s where all this started.”
The seed that was planted as a kid has grown into a project that not only celebrates Holloway’s groundbreaking career with the Vols, but also looks at all the factors that led the quarterback to Knoxville and the challenges he faced while breaking down a barrier in the SEC.
Backed up by extensive research and numerous interviews, a story that might not be all that well known outside of UT or the conference will be broadcast to the whole country this weekend as part of ESPN’s Year of the Quarterback series. And even for those already familiar with the typically private Holloway, the documentary provides a rare look at one of the true originals under center.
“Well, yes there was (some hesitation to participate), but the fact that Kenny was doing it, I was very comfortable with that,” Holloway said during the teleconference. “I think anybody other than Kenny, I would not have done this because I’m just a private person.
“I do understand that when you’re playing a team game that it’s not just you.”
Holloway makes that point himself during the film, as he’s been known to do, shifting some of the attention to UT’s first black player, Lester McClain, and passing around the praise to everybody involved in the program.
But as he was on the field back then, Holloway clearly is the star of the show. And Chesney relies on both the memories of his boyhood idol and his current friendship with the UT assistant athletic director to capture more than just Holloway’s impact at Neyland Stadium.
“I just wanted for this story to obviously be as good as we could make it,” Chesney said. “I felt like Condredge had such an impact on me, and I felt like also he opened doors for a lot of people to play the way he played. More people play now the way Condredge did in ’72, ’73, ’74 — nobody played like Condredge did then.
“What I think is ironic about is, if you take the athlete that Condredge was and put it with the athlete playing today, Condredge could still play today. That’s what I hope people see when they watch this film and see the moves that he made and how much athletic ability he had. They’re going to see the influence of some people that are playing today that’s pretty amazing.”