UT's Creed: Pure Speed

Long before the storied SEC became renown as a speed conference, Tennessee was renown as a speed team, having already established a proud tradition for turning track stars into football stars and vice versa.

Sometimes they arrived as dual stars, attracted by UT's reputation for uncommon cooperation between the track and football programs, and the remarkable results that alliance produced. The coupling of these sports came naturally enough, as former UT head track coach, Chuck Rohe, also served as the football team's recruiting coordinator beginning in 1962.

One of the first to achieve status in both sports was former Vol All-American offensive lineman Chip Kell, who also threw the shot. Most were sprinters and hurdlers, but several were high jumpers. On the gridiron, they mostly played wide receiver, running back and in the secondary, although D-line stalwart Doug Atkins once competed in the high jump and won the SEC title.

Among these mercurial talents have been NCAA champions, Olympic champions and world champions. The quickest of the quick, the fleetest of the fleet. Many of champions would hear their names called early in the NFL Draft. From Richmond Flowers to Anthony Hancock to Willie Gault to Terry McDaniel to Alvin Harper and dozens of other track stars that glittered on the gridiron, the success of this system has beget success and remains a valuable recruiting tool to this day.

Current Volunteer cornerback and 200-meter specialist, Jonathan Wade, is the latest to join the litany of names like Roland James, Mike Miller, Clyde Duncan, Carl Pickens, Sam Grady and Leonard Scott to letter in both sports.

Tennessee's need for speed is still the driving force behind football recruiting. The Vols' philosophy is: if you can run fast we can teach you how to play, but we can't teach you to run fast.

Obviously, if you've got world class speed on the track, you're going to be fast on grass, but there is a difference in football speed and track speed. To begin with there's no 40-yard dash in track and no starting blocks in football. Neither is there someone giving you hand shivers at the starting line in track.

In terms of football speed, the fastest players this sports scribe ever saw on The Hill were Stanley Morgan, Anthony Miller and Dale Carter, all, of whom, were electrifying athletes that didn't run track at Tennessee. In fact, Morgan aka "Stanley Steamer" was a blur when in full stride, and he played wide receiver, running back and even safety during his career at UT before he went on to become one of the NFL's best wide receivers ever.

One of the great stories of Morgan's speed comes from the venerable Marvin West, who wrote the following in his entertaining and informative book Tales of the Tennessee Vols.

"Stanley Morgan came to Tennessee in 1973. The preliminary scouting report said he was swift.

Assistant coaches Jim Wright and Lon Herzbrun were timing freshmen in the 40-yard dash. Morgan flew past the finish line, Herzbrun looked at his stopwatch and yelled at Wright: "What did you get?"

Wright looked at his watch and said 4.3.

"Me too," said Herzbrun.

Later, Wright asked Herzbrun why he had been so quick to question the clocking on Morgan's run.

"Because my watch said 4.15," said Herzbrun.

"Mine too," said Wright.

"Why didn't you say so?" asked Herzbrun.

"Because nobody runs that fast," said Wright."

That's the type of fast you speak of in whispers, if you speak of it at all.

Editor's Note: In part two we'll take a look at what is clocking in as a very fast Class of 2007.


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