Condredge Holloway was right on time

Quarterback more worried about wins than making history

Tennessee quarterback Condredge Holloway scores a touchdown against Georgia at Neyland Stadium on Nov. 3, 1973. The Bulldogs defeated the Vols 35-31.

Photo by Charles Hugh / Atlanta Journal Constitution

Photo by Charles Hugh / Atlanta Journal Constitution

Tennessee quarterback Condredge Holloway scores a touchdown against Georgia at Neyland Stadium on Nov. 3, 1973. The Bulldogs defeated the Vols 35-31. Photo by Charles Hugh / Atlanta Journal Constitution

Eventually, the barrier was bound to be broken.

The guy who actually did it admits it was just a matter of time, literally even coming down to a matter of hours.

If the schedule hadn't given Condredge Holloway and Tennessee the first crack at history in early September 1972, there was another black quarterback waiting at Mississippi State who could have slid into the record books in his place.

"If the game was played an hour-and-a-half later, Melvin Barkum would be answering these questions, not me," Holloway said. "That's the way that worked, and I was just more concerned with what was going on football-wise."

As artful dodging attention as tacklers, Holloway still uses his knack for misdirection to bring in as many other players as possible when the focus is on him and the historic snaps he took for the Vols nearly 40 years ago as the first black player under center in the SEC.

Whether another came along later that day or 10 years later, Holloway officially knocked down the door and in some ways helped set the table for a league that long after his career was over would send a black quarterback to New York City to collect a Heisman Trophy.

Of course, it certainly didn't hurt that the player who broke the mold proved more than capable of handling perhaps the most important position in all of sports.

---

Bill Battle wasn't looking for history.

The Tennessee coach just wanted talent, and he also needed a quarterback.

His recruiter in Huntsville, Ala., Ray Trail, had the perfect guy for the Vols, a versatile, absurdly athletic kid named Holloway.

Alabama and coach Paul "Bear" Bryant also were after Holloway and willing to sign the black player, but the Crimson Tide made clear there wouldn't be a spot for him at quarterback. Battle, the UT coaching staff and by extension the entire state of Tennessee had no problems opening up that position for Holloway to compete for, which ultimately produced a signature and paved the way for a legacy.

"We were looking for players," Battle said. "We were looking for talent, and we knew he could play. He wanted a chance to play quarterback, and that wasn't any problem for me. I didn't know (if he could play quarterback) because I hadn't seen him enough in high school. Ray Trail recruited him and was there in Huntsville for a while and did a great job getting close to the family and Condredge, and there was no doubt in Ray's mind he could play quarterback.

"But I hadn't seen enough of him to know."

It didn't take much of a glimpse of Holloway for Battle to figure out he could handle the load.

And the only thing that kept the Vols from moving up the date of Holloway's famous first start was the freshmen eligibility issue in place at the time.

"It didn't take but a week on campus before we figured out he could help us," Battle said. "We had a great defense in 1971, one of the best I've ever been around, but we were really struggling at the quarterback position.

'The Color Orange' addresses more than football

"We went through four quarterbacks. If freshmen had been eligible, I guarantee Condredge could have helped us as a freshman."

That chance would come soon enough, but even without any varsity action as a freshman, the buzz for Holloway was building.

---

Given the time period and continued racial tension, Holloway certainly faced his share of critics and opened some unsigned letters that weren't wishing him well.

Battle's secretary was around to intercept a few of those notes, but Holloway generally didn't need the shield. UT fans might have embraced the quarterback regardless of his skin color, but once they saw what he was capable of in a freshman game against Notre Dame, he had all the support and positive reinforcement he would need.

"He got so endeared to the Tennessee fans early, I think they protected that," longtime sports information director Bud Ford said. "There were a lot of people that stood up for that, and Tennessee fans were on his side. We were playing great football and winning games, and they were on his side.

"I don't recall any real (negative) instances, and the reason is because Condredge didn't talk about it. He didn't say a lot about what went on, and there were a few of them, but he didn't talk about it."

The conversation about him was soon focusing instead on his game-breaking ability to make defenders miss, extend plays with his feet, grit through pain and ensure that UT was well-stocked in tear-away jerseys for No. 7.

The racial aspect would continue to be a story when the Vols would go on the road and national writers flocked to Knoxville to feature Holloway, but what he did on the field at quarterback seemed to quickly take precedence over the fact that he was simply playing there in the first place.

"What was happening around the world and in our society, that was furthest from my mind when the ball was snapped," Holloway said. "I had no thoughts about it, no solutions, I didn't even think about it. At the time I was 18, and it was all football, all about execution, all about doing what we needed to do to win the game.

Great player, electrifying highlight tapes. Condredge Holloway, that was a hell of a player.

Jon Gruden

"There were quite a bit of bad letters. It happened, and that's just the way it was. I didn't think anything great about it or bad about or indifferent, it's just part of what went on and I dealt with it."

And it apparently didn't do much to hold him back on the way to 25 career victories and three bowl appearances.

---

No matter how many big plays he made with the Vols, games he won or touchdowns he threw, Holloway still couldn't get any traction with the NFL.

The New England Patriots wanted him as a defensive back, so Holloway again found a team willing to let him take the snaps and packed up for Canada.

But now, years after his career ended, the debate about his ability and how it would translate to the current game continues.

If color was the issue then, it's not now with guys like Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb having enjoyed plenty of success at the next level - often using the scrambling blueprint Holloway provided.

If it was a matter of his underwhelming size, Drew Brees has proved that height isn't always the best way to measure a passer.

"I would have loved to have seen Condredge Holloway play in modern football - shotgun, spread offense, similar to what you see every week," former Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden said. "He would have been devastating running the read-options. He wasn't in an offense that accentuated the forward pass, either.

"Great player, electrifying highlight tapes. Condredge Holloway, that was a hell of a player."

More specifically, though, Holloway was a quarterback - and a productive one at that.

Officially he was the first of his kind, and if not a trendsetter at the time, one that at least cracked the door for others to follow. It might still not even be completely open yet, but when Auburn's Cam Newton picked up his Heisman in December, there was some evidence of how far the game has come since Holloway first put on his pads.

"Let's face it, just being honest, I still feel that African-Americans that are playing quarterback are still facing challenges, they're still facing stereotypes," ESPN college football analyst and former Ohio State quarterback Kirk Herbstreit said. "To think that Condredge was the first in the SEC, the most powerful conference year-in and year-out in college football, that's a great honor and something for him to be very proud of and for the university to be very proud of.

"But we still have a lot of work to do. I feel, just being candid, that people still have certain issues or challenges with their ability to be a quarterback. There's stereotypes about them being athletic, but not necessarily very cerebral. I think it's very unfair, and I think getting these stories out more and more are going to help break down those barriers."

Austin Ward covers Tennessee football. He may be reached 865-342-6274. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Vols_Beat and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/ward.

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Comments » 34

VOLFORLIFE writes:

Wish we all could forget about the color of a man's (or woman's) skin and focus our attention on that person's ability to perform the tasks assigned to him/her. If Bill Battle hadn't been able to do that, there would be no stories about "the color orange" as it relates to one of the most talented (and classiest) players to ever play in the SEC.

I well remember the excitement generated by Condredge Holloway and the Vols, and John Ward's excitement during one game when he exclaimed, "CONNNNNNNDREDGE HOLLOWAY! Number 7 in your program, number 1 in your heart!"

Thank you, Mr. Holloway, for being a Vol, and for the pride and pleasure you've brought to this "old" Vol fan!

GO VOLS!!!
JUGHEAD

arkyvol writes:

thank goodness for good ole bama prejudice. it cost them one of the all time greats.

Ayres_Hall writes:

I wonder. How many kids wore the #7 for their teams and schools because of Condredge Holloway?

volhome#407234 writes:

Peanut was and is special, both on the field and off. He did things that so many other players wish they could do, and as an ambassador to the University continues to perform at a level most could only hope to match. I never thought of Condredge as our first black quarterback. I thought of him as our quarterback, period. Thanks for everything you have done, Condredge.

silvervolff#243348 (Inactive) writes:

The 'race, race, race' narrative is SO old.
Get over it.

Sovol writes:

The most exciting player to ever wear the orange. I was at the UCLA game when he came running onto the field after being injured. Everyone including UCLA knew the game was going to change and he brought us back to tie the game.

BigOrangeJeff writes:

in response to silvervolff#243348:

The 'race, race, race' narrative is SO old.
Get over it.

Sounds like YOU need to get over it, genius.

rockytopatl writes:

in response to BigOrangeJeff:

Sounds like YOU need to get over it, genius.

Agreed. It's almost like some of our fans are embarrassed or ashamed that we had the SEC's first black quarterback. I'm proud we were the most progressive program in the Southland. We also had the first African-American player period in Lester McClain.

orangepeel writes:

Condredge is my favorite football player ever at UT

GOJO writes:

in response to rockytopatl:

Agreed. It's almost like some of our fans are embarrassed or ashamed that we had the SEC's first black quarterback. I'm proud we were the most progressive program in the Southland. We also had the first African-American player period in Lester McClain.

I presume you are referring to McClain as the first in Football.
Perry Wallace entered Vanderbilt on a Basketball athletic scholarship in 1966. During his first year, he played on Vanderbilt's freshman squad because NCAA regulations prohibited freshmen from playing on the varsity team. Another black player, Godfrey Dillard, had come to Vanderbilt that year from Detroit and played with Wallace on the freshman squad. Dillard was later injured and did not go on to play on the varsity team.

rockytopatl writes:

in response to GOJO:

I presume you are referring to McClain as the first in Football.
Perry Wallace entered Vanderbilt on a Basketball athletic scholarship in 1966. During his first year, he played on Vanderbilt's freshman squad because NCAA regulations prohibited freshmen from playing on the varsity team. Another black player, Godfrey Dillard, had come to Vanderbilt that year from Detroit and played with Wallace on the freshman squad. Dillard was later injured and did not go on to play on the varsity team.

Yes, McClain in 1968 became the SEC's first black varsity football player.

clvolfan writes:

in response to TheMemphisSlim:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

It sure was,I was there with 3 of my friends in the upper deck,in awe.Guess ESPN was timely with this hour show.UT needs some good news,just as the whole sports world did until today.Two fine young,unashamed,Christian men won on national tv.One in NASCAR and one on the PGA tour.
Thanks to both for their testimonies.

Hacksaw57 writes:

Just saw "The Color Orange". Thought it was a great tribute to Condredge. Makes any true-orange blooded fan proud to be a Volunteer!
Enjoyed the old footage and hearing Coach Battle and The Great John Ward, who will ALWAYS be the Voice of The VOLS!
I Say It's GREAT - To Be - A Tennessee Vol!

orangecountyvols writes:

Vols,

It was a great and deserving tribute to Condredge. My Dad and I saw many of those games. They mentioned the UCLA tie 17-17. How many remember the very first play from scrimmage? We ran the opening kickoff back to the 24. Stanley Morgan ran toward the sideline as if going off the field. He then stood and faced the LOS, standing in front of all the orange jerseys.

Condredge stepped back and nailed Morgan for the 74 yard bomb for a TD. Then the other game that topped them all was the 29-28 win over Clemson also in 1974.
They were ripping Holloway's jersey off and almost sacked him but he managed to hit Seivers on the winning 2 point conversion.........to win, from the 20 yard line, on game's final play. Pandemonium reigned !

stompintheswamp2 writes:

Glad we can call Kenny Chesney our own. I knew him in college. Couldn't ask for a better guy to have the great success he has had.

DutchOrangeVolsOrange writes:

I'm sorry that CH never beat Bear and the Bama Tide. That 72 loss was what it was. As CH described in the movie, the UT Vols played perfect football for 58 minutes. In a two minute span the Tide scored twice to beat the Vols that day. Other than that disappointment, it was a great career for CH!

voloffaith writes:

Show was a great tribute to a True tennessee Vol!! He was a humble guy and didn't get caught up in himself. We had classes at Glocker and he always spoke to lil ole me. Hope the daughter can go to UT as speculated in movie/tribute. I had tear away jersys from Lester McClain and Richmond Flowers from that era. Lotsa good futbol memories.

bustervols writes:

When I was young, all the guy's wanted to be no.7. He was such an inspiration. When you play for the orange, no one really cares if you are white, black, or purple, if you play for the love of the game, you just want to play.

BigVolinCarolina writes:

Truly enjoyed the ESPN feature on Condredge tonight. Well done!

On a different note, seeing and hearing John Ward made me wish he was still the "Voice of the Vols" today. I miss that guy. Anyway we can use the $$ received for increased ticket prices to lure him out of retirement and back into the booth????

Wishful thinking, I know.

tennezz writes:

Glad the younger fans got to see how special and how great Condredge really was!

Orangeblood13 writes:

finaly espn got something right

GreeneVol writes:

I heard Kenny Chesney was a big Tim Tebow at one time fan from some posters last week and got a bit miffed. But I noticed from a segment with Bob Ley that he did another Boys of Fall documentary and was wearing a Florida State jersey beside Bobby Bowden. Maybe he wasn't a Tebow fan, just a fan of football. Ultimately, he must be promoting 'Soul Shine Productions' or whatever...I guess he's still a Vol at heart. Good flick.

brokendownoldvol writes:

I wish he had been eligible his frreshman yr. That 1971 team had one of the best defenses in TN history, seven games giving up 7 pts. or less. They had no QB. I also wish they had dug up more footage of his play at TN. They left out a lot of his unbelievable plays.

Tau_of_Tennessee writes:

in response to brokendownoldvol:

I wish he had been eligible his frreshman yr. That 1971 team had one of the best defenses in TN history, seven games giving up 7 pts. or less. They had no QB. I also wish they had dug up more footage of his play at TN. They left out a lot of his unbelievable plays.

I am with you. I really enjoyed the show but wish they would have mentioned the Penn St win in 72 (I think?).

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

HA! Old man!! Unfortunately, I was too young to see Holloway. The first QB I remember actually watching was Cockrell. I did get a chance to see a highlight reel of some of Holloway's moves, though, and was thoroughly impressed. Awesome QB!!

NOLVOLFAN writes:

Can anyone say UT athletic director? Condredge would do the university proud.

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to Tau_of_Tennessee:

I am with you. I really enjoyed the show but wish they would have mentioned the Penn St win in 72 (I think?).

Tau,

You mentioned the 72' Penn State game. First night game in Neyland Stadium. Sold out, and people were sitting on the roof of Alumni gym.

We had them 21-0 at the half and won, 28-21.

ROCKYTOPBRAD writes:

did we just turn in alabama last night when it was told that gov george wallace called him and said he should go to alabama????

Txvolsfan1213 writes:

I watched the color orange last night and it was one of the best things ive seen on ESPN in a long time. I bet you that several african american qbs watched this and now some of them might wan to come to UT after seeing what Condredge did here. Too bad he didn't get to play in the NFL because i sure would have enjoyed watching him on sundays. He was a great athlete and most of all a great person and role model.

esarmstrong#231516 writes:

in response to arkyvol:

thank goodness for good ole bama prejudice. it cost them one of the all time greats.

... but their bigotry didn't cost them much else during the 70's. Unfortunately, they were just beginning that 11 game winning streak on us and they were clearly the most dominant team in the league in the 70's.

Still though, that infamous bigotry did get us a classy and very talented young man to come to K'town and dazzle us for three years.

VOLFORLIFE writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

Tau,

You mentioned the 72' Penn State game. First night game in Neyland Stadium. Sold out, and people were sitting on the roof of Alumni gym.

We had them 21-0 at the half and won, 28-21.

Yep, we beat the great Franco Harris and Lydell Mitchell!

GO VOLS!!!
JUGHEAD

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to brokendownoldvol:

I wish he had been eligible his frreshman yr. That 1971 team had one of the best defenses in TN history, seven games giving up 7 pts. or less. They had no QB. I also wish they had dug up more footage of his play at TN. They left out a lot of his unbelievable plays.

I heard Fulmer on the radio the other day. He said if CH could have played his freshman yr that they would have won the NC that season.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to NOLVOLFAN:

Can anyone say UT athletic director? Condredge would do the university proud.

I've been saying the same thing as of late. Condredge for A.D., and Fulmer to take over Condredge's current Assistant Athletic Director position. Tired of the Anti Fulmer clan. He and Condredge would make one hell of a tandem. Talk about fund raising....JEEZ!

Chartervol writes:

Random thoughts.

Liked the early 70s uniforms. Big shoulder pads, crisp look. Not like the gay shrink wraps of today.

Loved the aerial shots of Neyland and the Hill. That's what it looked like when I hit campus in 75.

Sorry no mention of Tee Martin leading Tennessee to national championship in 1998. Would have been a better bookend than Cam Newton.

ESPN gets a few points for this -- maybe enough to make up for the pig commercial. Still not off the hook for the Heistman fiasco, though.

Lester McClain was poignant with the talk of his grandfather and how the years are compressed.

Bill Battle looked and sounded fabulous. He not only found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, apparently he found the Fountain of Youth, too. What a class act.

Tennessee showed well in this documentary. About time we got some good pub.

VFL.

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