Manning top QB to play in Tennessee

When it comes to producing outstanding quarterbacks, the state of Tennessee has been fertile ground. A plethora of stars have emerged from the high school ranks, the college level, the Canadian Football League and the National Football League.

Volunteer State quarterbacks have won the NFL's MVP award twice, the Heisman Trophy and a few national championships.

If you played in the state in high school, college or the pros, you qualify. Steve Sloan of Cleveland led Alabama to a national championship in 1965 and Joe Namath called him the best pure passer he'd ever seen.

Andy Kelley of Rhea County was an outstanding high school passer and punter who led the Vols to two SEC championships and set numerous passing records in the Arena Football League. He might be the best quarterback to ever play in the AFL.

Pat Ryan of Putnam, Okla., was never a full-time starter at Tennessee or in the NFL, but he was a terrific backup quarterback and spent a dozen years in the pro ranks.

Dewey ``Swamp Rat'' Warren of Georgia was the first of the modern-day quarterbacks at Tennessee and is credited with helping devise the passing scheme at Brigham Young. He had a brief pro career.

Bobby Scott led the Vols to a 1969 SEC title and Doug Dickey called Scott the best pure passer he coached. Scott toiled in the NFL for a dozen years, mostly as Archie Manning's backup.

Tee Martin of Mobile, Ala., guided the Vols to the 1998 national championship, their first since 1951. He bounced around the NFL for several years before becoming a coach.

Jay Cutler of Santa Claus, Ind., was a terrific quarterback at Vanderbilt and a first-round NFL draft pick who will start this season for the Denver Broncos. In five years, he might jump to the upper tier of this list.

But as good as those quarterbacks were, they didn't make my list of the Super Six quarterbacks from Tennessee.

Here's a look at my picks.

6. Condredge Holloway, Huntsville, Ala. Holloway as an electrifying quarterback who was nicknamed the Artful Dodger for his ability to escape the pass rush. Holloway, an all-SEC baseball player, took his football skills above the border where his brilliant career in the CFL landed him in the Canadian Pro Football Hall of Fame.

5. Heath Shuler, Bryson City, N.C. Shuler was an outstanding dual-threat quarterback at Tennessee who set records for touchdown passes and rushing touchdowns for a quarterback. He was a Heisman runner-up in 1993. He was the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL draft. Although he was a bust in the NFL, that doesn't detract from a marvelous college career that could have been better had he stayed his senior season.

4. Chad Pennington, Knoxville. Only 6-1 and 170 coming out of Webb School, Pennington was a star at Division 1-AA Marshall, then a first-round NFL draft choice. While not blessed with a cannon arm, Pennington has used his football IQ and fiery nature to earn a starting job for the New York Jets.

3. Steve Spurrier, Johnson City. Spurrier was one of the state's most gifted high school athletes. He could play football, basketball, baseball and golf. He won the 1966 Heisman Trophy as Florida's quarterback and played nine years in the NFL before becoming one of the best college coaches in the country.

2. Steve McNair, Alcorn State. The Mississippi native was a standout for the Tennessee Titans, taking them to the 2000 Super Bowl and being named co-MVP of the NFL with Manning. McNair's history of playing through pain has led many to dub him a warrior. He was a Heisman finalist, not bad for a 1-AA quarterback.

1. Peyton Manning, New Orleans. Manning picked Tennessee over Ole Miss. That caused some difficult times for father Archie, an Ole Miss legend, but Peyton thrived at Tennessee, breaking all the school's passing records. He was robbed of the Heisman in 1997, but was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1998 NFL draft and proved his worth as a two-time NFL MVP. He became a Super Bowl champion this past season. If he remains productive for another five years, he might go down as the greatest quarterback in the history of the game, certainly one of the top five.

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