Knoxville (UT) --
In most places, being honored with your photograph on the reverse side of a scoreboard might be the ultimate backhanded compliment.
But the impressive video structure at Tennessee's Neyland Stadium is not just any scoreboard, and a pair of UT football living legends now find themselves in some pretty elite – and visible – company.
Larger-than-life-size photographs of Phillip Fulmer and Condredge Holloway have been installed and are on display high atop Neyland Stadium, overlooking Neyland Drive and positioned on either side of The General himself, Robert R. Neyland.
“I’m obviously very pleased and honored, but more for our teams that led up to the national championship and then that moment,” Fulmer said. The former Vols head coach is pictured on the far right holding the Waterford Crystal football of the BCS trophy after UT defeated Florida State in the 1999 title game.
On the left side is Holloway from his “artful dodger” playing days of the early 1970s. As always, Holloway seems to be easily eluding his would-be tackler and actually appears to be running right off the display.
“The honor of being up there is pretty special,” Holloway said. “When I see it, I’m representing my teammates from that era and all of us guys from 1971-74.”
The center panel belongs to Neyland, UT’s legendary head coach from 1926-52, and is a photo of the new bronze statue installed last November on the stadium’s west side.
Neyland also was pictured with former All-America tailback Hank Lauricella when the video board first went into service in 2009. All-America safety Eric Berry was featured also, along with a shot of the team leaving the locker room under the iconic sign, “I will give my all for Tennessee today.”
“The General deserves to occupy the center position,” said Chris Fuller, UT’s senior associate athletics director for external operations. Fuller said the next two honorees were just as obvious.
“Condredge is one of the best athletes we’ve ever had in football and baseball, and what makes this special is he’s a guy who would never call attention to himself,” Fuller said. “On top of that, we finally got to tell his story with Kenny Chesney, The Color Orange, which was special.
“But the other thing about Condredge is how many lives he’s quietly touched here in the role he’s in now.” Holloway serves as UT’s assistant athletics director for player relations and is a vital link between the current Vols football team and its storied history.
Fuller said the Fulmer photo covers two iconic points in UT football lore.
“The image of Phillip is both a moment our fans recognize and celebrate, and an individual who has an indelible place in our history and tradition,” Fuller said. “Obviously, Phillip bringing a national championship back to Tennessee was so important in our history.”
Asked if he still hears about that 23-16 victory in January 1999, the former Vols coach just laughed.
“Everywhere!” he said. “It seems like everybody was there and, if they weren’t, they were watching. Everybody I’m around talks about that game.”
Fulmer mostly recalls the extreme sense of satisfaction he felt as the clock wound down.
“It was a great moment celebrating with the fans after the game,” he said. “Everything you had worked for all those years culminated in 60 minutes of football, and we were able to come out with the win.
“It also was a great moment for me from a personal standpoint, because my dad had never really had a chance to see me as a head coach – he died in 1989. In that moment when the clocked ticked down and the cameras started flashing and everybody was rushing the field, I actually felt the presence of my dad for a few seconds. And with my wife and children being there, it was an unbelievable moment. And, finally, being able to walk out and shake hands with Coach (Bobby) Bowden, somebody I respected so much.”
Holloway recalls vividly the game in which he is pictured, a 35-31 homecoming loss to Georgia in 1973.
“It was a great game but we got beat in Knoxville, and we didn’t lose very many home games,” he said. “The senior group always made sure you knew that you win all your home games and half the ones on the road. That was the minimum of what was expected.
“Georgia was a big-time game for us. The first thing I think of when I think of the opponent is Andy Johnson. Not only was he a great quarterback, but we competed against each other in baseball too. That year, they won the football game and we won the baseball series – although I wish it would have been the other way around!”
So take a look skyward the next time you’re passing the stadium’s south side. Check out Holloway, Neyland and Fulmer, high atop the south upper deck. Might it be their highest honor? Certainly it is in size of display and feet off the ground.
It’s not quite “See Seven States” territory up there, but it’s close.
You could even say a quick “Thank you” to the trio of individuals who each played a role helping put Tennessee football on the map.
That would be the ultimate compliment.
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