"I owe everything to God, my family, school and football," Kell said after receiving the news. "It was an honor to play for Coach Dickey and Coach Battle. I owe a great deal to my high school coaches, Lefty Thompson and Calvin Ramsey."
The call from the Hall of Fame was definitely a surprise.
"I was totally caught off guard when the Hall of Fame called," he said. "It's the most exciting thing that has ever happened in my athletic career. It's nice when people remember you and appreciate what you did, the things you accomplished.
"We had some fine teams back then. Ray Trail may have been the best line coach in the country. It was an outstanding group and I remember the camaraderie with the players."
Kell played center in 1968 as a sophomore and moved to guard in 1969 without missing a beat. He is one of 14 Vols named All-America twice. He joins three other former Vols, fullback Curt Watson (1969-71), offensive guard Mickey Marvin (1974-76) and placekicker Jeff Hall (1995-96, 1998), as Tennessee players who earned All-SEC honors three times.
Kell came to the Vols in the 1966-67 recruiting class from Avondale High School in Decatur, Ga. He played on teams that earned an 8-2-1 record in 1968, a 9-2 record and the SEC title in 1969 and an 11-1 mark and final No. 4 ranking in 1970. During his Tennessee varsity career, he and his senior classmates never lost on Shields-Watkins Field, with only a 17-17 tie against Georgia in the 1968 season opener marring the record. Kell and his Vol teammates closed their careers with a rousing 34-13 win over Air Force in the 1971 Sugar Bowl, ending their time at Tennessee on a 10-game win streak, 28-5-1 overall.
He was a two-time winner of the Jacobs Memorial Award as the SEC's best blocker and was the Birmingham Quarterback Club's SEC most outstanding lineman in his senior season. He also played in the 1971 Senior Bowl. He was named national lineman of the week after the 1970 Kentucky game.
"Chip Kell was one of the most powerful athletes that I had ever coached at that time," said former UT Director of Athletics Doug Dickey, his head coach in 1968 and 1969. "He was way ahead of his time in development by use of weight training, and he became a true leader on the football team."
After being drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the 17th round of the 1971 NFL draft and following a two-year career with the CFL Edmonton Eskimos (1971-72), Kell began his coaching career in 1973 and is currently in-school suspension instructor at Crossroads Academy in Dalton, Ga. He has twin daughters, Abby and Annie, 16, and a son, Dusty, 27, who lives in Knoxville, and two grandchildren.
Joining Kell as inductees this December are Bobby Anderson (RB, Colorado, 1967-69), Bennie Blades (DB, Miami (Fla.), 1985-87), Carl Eller (T, Minnesota, 1961-63), Steve Emtman (DL, Washington, 1989-91), Thomas Everett (FS, Baylor, 1983-86), Chad Hennings (DT, Air Force, 1984-87), Mike Phipps (QB, Purdue, 1967-69), Mike Rozier (RB, Nebraska, 1981-83), Jeff Siemon (LB, Stanford, 1968-71), Bruce Smith (DT, Virginia Tech, 1981-84), Emmitt Smith (RB, Florida, 1987-89), and Charlie Ward (QB, Florida State, 1989, 1991-93). Coaches named to the Hall of Fame are Bobby Bowden for his career at Samford (1959-62), West Virginia (1970-75), and Florida State (1976-present), with a record of 359-107-4, and Joe Paterno for his career at Penn State (1966-present), with a record of 354-117-3.
Other Vols in the College Football Hall of Fame are Gene McEver (inducted 1954), Beattie Feathers (inducted 1955), Gen. Robert R. Neyland (inducted 1956 as coach at Tennessee), Herman Hickman (inducted 1959), Bobby Dodd (inducted 1959 as player at Tennessee, inducted 1993 as coach at Georgia Tech), Bob Suffridge (inducted 1961), Nathan W. Dougherty (inducted 1967), George Cafego (inducted 1969), Bowden Wyatt (inducted 1972 as player, inducted 1997 as coach at Wyoming, Arkansas and Tennessee), Hank Lauricella (inducted 1981), Doug Atkins (inducted 1985), Johnny Majors (inducted 1987), Bob Johnson (inducted 1989), Ed Molinski (inducted 1990), Steve DeLong (inducted 1993), John Michels (inducted 1996), Steve Kiner (inducted 1999), Reggie White (inducted 2002), Doug Dickey (inducted as a coach at Tennessee and Florida 2003) and Frank Emanuel (inducted 2004).
The Vols have now had four College Hall selections in the 2000s and 10 since 1990.
To be eligible for the ballot, players must have been named a First Team All-America by a major/national selector as recognized and utilized by the NCAA for their consensus All-America teams, played their last year of intercollegiate football at least ten years prior, played within the last 50 years and be retired from playing professional football. Coaches must have coached a minimum of 10 years and 100 games as a head coach, won at least 60% of their games and be retired from coaching. In both cases, the candidate's post-football record as a citizen may also be weighed.