Austin Denney dead at age 65

Austin Denney, who set the modern standard for Tennessee's tight end position with a combination of versatility, speed and fight, died Tuesday in his hometown of Knoxville after a brief illness. He was 65.

Denney earned All-America honors for the 1966 Vols, hauling in a school-record seven touchdowns among his 21 overall catches that season for 264 yards. He finished his career with 35 catches for 470 yards and nine touchdowns before embarking on a four-year NFL career.

"When I arrived at UT in the spring of 1966 as receivers coach, Austin was the first player to introduce himself to me and welcome me to the team," former UT head coach Bill Battle said Thursday. Battle was in his first season under head coach Doug Dickey that year, coaching the receivers and tight ends.

"He was a great player at UT and combined excellent size, speed and physical ability with positive attitude and leadership. He was truly a pleasure to coach. My heart goes out to Austin's family and friends in his passing."

Denney wasn't always a tight end.

Denney moved from fullback to the line his junior year partly because of his 6-foot-2, 227-pound body, establishing the position as another offensive threat for the Vols. By the end of his senior year in 1966, the co-captain was All-SEC and All-America. His seven touchdowns were even more impressive, setting a school receiving record that stood until 1990 and helping the big man lead the team in scoring. Denney caught nine TDs in his career to set another UT receiving mark at the time and one that still stands for the tight end position.

The Nashville native then played three season for the Chicago Bears (1967-69) and one for the Buffalo Bills (1970), finishing his NFL playing days with 71 catches, 764 receiving yards and three touchdowns in 49 career games. His best season statistically was 1968, when he caught 23 passes for 247 yards and a pair of scores.

Denney was born Jan. 2, 1944, and attended Donelson High School. He is survived by his wife of 44 years, the former Margaret Petty, a Nashville beauty who was Miss Tennessee in 1962. He also is survived by his daughter, Meg Sinclair of Indianapolis; son, Austin Denney III, and wife, Tina; sister and brother-in-law, Marine and Hernando Ortega; sister, Naomi Finley; and several grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Austin Denney Sr. and Mamie Carney Denney; and a son, Austin Patrick.

The family is receiving friends Saturday from 1-3 p.m. at Mountain View United Methodist Church, followed by a memorial service. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Mountain View United Methodist Church, 3200 Maryville Pike, Knoxville, TN, 37920. Arrangements are by Knoxville's Berry Funeral Home on Chapman Highway.

Austin Denny, TE - Nashville (Lettered 1965, 66 [Capt.]) All-America - 1966; All-SEC - 1966.

Receiving Statistics

Year G No. Yds. Avg. TD

1965 - 14 206 14.7 2

1966 10 21 264 12.6 7


Totals - 35 470 13.4 9

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