Ex-Vol Duff fighting again

Bill Duff wasn't the finest player in University of Tennessee football history but you can make a pretty strong case that he was the toughest. Now the former Vol has found another way to exhibit that toughness.

Duff and Jason Chambers are co-hosting a TV series tracing the origins of hand-to-hand combat for The History Channel. The series, called "Human Weapon," debuts July 20 with a segment on Muay Thai filmed on location in Bangkok.

Each episode of Human Weapon will end with one of the hosts actually engaged in some form of combat. Chambers has training in mixed martial arts. Duff's resume includes stints as a New Jersey state high school wrestling champ, a bouncer, a pro football player, a pro wrestler, a bodyguard and a stunt double. He has a brown belt in Korean street fighting and claims to be undefeated in bar fights.

Though undersized at 6-3 and 265 pounds, Duff was a starting defensive tackle at Tennessee in 1996 and '97. He offset his lack of heft with a mean streak that intimidated foes and teammates alike.

"I ain't sure we've got anybody who'd mess with him," Vol defensive line coach Dan Brooks once noted. "I don't think there's many people on the street who'd mess with him, either."

Defensive coordinator John Chavis echoed those sentiments, noting: "He'll fight you seven days a week, and if you want to fight some more, he'll fight you again."

The highlight of Duff's UT career was stopping Heisman winner Eddie George on a fourth-and-one at the Vol 2-yard line to preserve a 20-14 Citrus Bowl defeat of Ohio State on Jan. 1, 1996.

"He's one of the toughest guys I've been around," Chavis once said. "At the position he plays, he has to be. He's giving up as much as 40 or 50 pounds, yet he holds his own ... he MORE than holds his own."

Still, Duff's on-field performances tended to be overshadowed by his off-field antics. The guy was the personification of the term "loose cannon." He was liable to say anything.

For instance:

- Following the '96 Citrus Bowl game, Duff dismissed a question about Ohio State's George by noting "I'd rather have (Vol teammate) Jay Graham."

- Alabama and Tennessee ranked 1-2 in SEC defense entering their 1996 game. After the Vols won 20-13, Duff snapped: "You had the No. 1 and No. 2 defenses out there today. We were No. 1 and they were No. 2. They can bitch about it all they want, but they know it's true."

- Once, asked about his approach to football, Duff replied: "Everything's fair game. The guy in front of me ain't my friend and he ain't my teammate. So there's only one thing left: He's my enemy."

- Questioned about his mind-boggling intensity, Duff grinned wickedly and replied: "At tackle, the ball's snapped and you throw a fit on somebody. Know what I mean?"

Tennessee coaches pleaded with Duff to keep his tongue in check. Supposedly, head coach Phillip Fulmer even placed a gag order on Duff following his junior season. Nothing worked. Duff kept talking.

"He speaks his mind," Chavis once noted. "Certainly, there have been times when he was on the borderline. We've asked him to be careful what he says but I'd never ask him to tone it down."

Now Duff finds himself in position to speak his mind with the cameras rolling and a national TV audience watching.

The History Channel may never be the same.

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