Remembering Kippy

As The Knoxville Journal's primary beat writer on Vol football in the 1980s I watched Tennessee become known as "Wide Receiver U." Year after year I'd see raw freshmen evolve into All-Americans and/or first-round NFL Draft picks.

The reason for that evolution was Kippy Brown. The guy had an uncanny knack for discovering and developing great pass catchers. That's why former Vol coach Johnny Majors hired him in 1983. That's why Phillip Fulmer hired him for a second tour of duty on The Hill in 1993. And that's why Lane Kiffin hired him this week for a third stint with the Vols.

Kippy Brown might be the best position coach the Big Orange has ever had. He had the instincts to spot great potential in unheralded prospects. He had the energy and charisma to recruit the heralded prospects. He had incredible rapport with his troops but also had the firm hand needed to instill discipline.

Kippy began his Vol career in an era when every SEC program had one black assistant but only one. I remember asking him about tokenism one time, then being really impressed by his answer. Basically, he said: "I may have gotten this job because I'm black, but I'll keep this job by proving that I'm an asset to the program."

He certainly succeeded on that count. In his first year with the Vols he turned an obscure senior named Clyde Duncan into a first-round NFL Draft pick. After catching just six balls for 70 yards in his first three years on campus, Duncan caught 33 balls for 640 yards (19.4 yards per catch) in his lone season playing for Kippy.

That began a pattern of excellence that would continue throughout Brown's tenure at Tennessee. What follows are some of his other proteges:

- Tim McGee caught 123 balls for 2,042 yards (16.6 average) and 15 touchdowns, earned All-America honors in 1985 and was a first-round draft pick the following spring. He wound up playing 11 years in The League.

- Joey Clinkscales caught 68 balls for 1,105 yards (16.3 average) and spent two years (1987-88) in the NFL.

- Thomas Woods departed in 1989 as UT's career leader in receptions (124) and receiving yards (1,615).

- Terrence Cleveland caught 63 career passes for 1,079 yards and a whopping 17.1 yards-per-catch average. Like Woods, he lacked the size and speed to play pro ball.

- Anthony Miller, a junior college transfer, was so impressive as a junior in 1986 (36 catches, 667 yards (18.5 average) that he was tabbed in the first round of the 1988 NFL Draft, despite missing almost all of his senior season due to injury. Miller went on to play 10 distinguished seasons in The League.

- Alvin Harper caught 102 passes for 1,547 yards (15.2 average) and 16 touchdowns before being the 12th player picked in the 1991 draft. He wound up playing seven quality years in the NFL.

- Anthony Morgan caught just 35 passes for 546 yards (15.6 average) in three varsity seasons at Tennessee (1988-90) but went on to play five seasons in the NFL.

- Carl Pickens reeled in 109 passes for 1,875 yards (17.2 average), earning All-SEC recognition twice and All-America recognition as a senior in 1991. A second-round NFL Draft pick, he went on to play nine seasons in the pros.

- Cory Fleming caught 94 balls for 1,266 yards and 18 touchdowns as a Vol, earning All-SEC honors as a senior in 1993. He then spent three seasons (1994-95 and 2000) in the NFL.

- Craig Faulkner recorded 110 receptions for 1,705 yards (15.5 average), in spite of a serious motorcycle accident that hindered the final year of his college career and negated his shot at a pro career.

- Joey Kent, signed as a sleeper out of Huntsville, Ala., remains to this day Tennessee's all-time leader in career receptions (183), receiving yards (2,814) and receiving touchdowns (25). He and Pickens share the UT single-game receptions record of 13. Tabbed All-SEC in 1995 and '96, Kent went on to spend five years in the NFL.

- Marcus Nash ranks No. 2 on Tennessee's all-time lists for career receptions (177) and receiving yards (2,447) and No. 3 for receiving touchdowns (20). A first-round pick in the 1998 draft, he spent three seasons in the NFL.

Before leaving following the 1994 season for a second stint as an NFL assistant, Kippy Brown gave the Vols a parting gift. He recruited and helped sign a speedy Ohio prospect named Peerless Price. He's fourth on UT's all-time list for career receptions (147) and third for receiving yards (2,298).

Price is best remembered, though, as the guy who caught four passes for 199 yards, including the game-clinching 79-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter, as Tennessee beat Florida State 23-16 to win the 1998 national title. Price went on to spend nine seasons in the NFL.

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