Vol linebacking great dies at 51

One-third of the greatest linebacking corps in University of Tennessee football history is dead.

Jackie Walker, 51, will be buried Saturday in Atlanta, where he died Thursday morning. Walker combined with fellow All-Americans Jack Reynolds and Steve Kiner to form a linebacking trio that has become as famous in UT football history as the Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance doubleplay combo was to baseball lore.

Walker led the 1970 Vols in tackles (82) and assists (42). He earned All-Southeastern Conference and All-America honors in both 1970 and '71. Playing outside linebacker at a wiry 185 pounds, Walker essentially was the prototype for more recent Vol 'backers such as Eric Westmoreland, Anthony Sessions and Eddie Moore.

As a sort of hybrid linebacker/safety, Walker was an outstanding pass defender. He intercepted 11 passes during his career to rank 11th on UT's all-time list. All 10 players ranked ahead of him were defensive backs. Incredibly, Walker returned five of his interceptions for touchdowns, which is believed to be an NCAA record. He had two more scoring returns wiped out by penalty.

Walker grew up in Knoxville and attended Fulton High School, where he starred in both football and basketball.


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