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Tennessee Football: 5 Greatest Quarterbacks in Volunteers History

Will Hendon Hooker be added to this list? Only time will tell.
Hendon Hooker, Tennessee Volunteers Football

Hooker's monster performance in leading Tennessee to a thrilling 52-49 victory over Alabama on Oct. 15 increases his chances of eventually making this list.

Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker earned himself a place in program lore last Saturday in leading the Volunteers to their first win against Alabama since 2006. His 385 passing yards, 56 rushing, and five touchdowns powered the team to a 52-49 victory.

In his season and a half in Knoxville, Hooker has been the most exciting Tennessee quarterback since Peyton Manning. Where he lands in the program’s history depends on how the rest of this season goes. With that in mind, here are the five greatest quarterbacks in Vol history.

5. Andy Kelly (1988-91)

While the SEC title is now decided in a different manner than when he played, Kelly is the only quarterback in Tennessee history to win two conference championships as a starter. In 1989, the Vols shared the title with Alabama and Auburn and won it outright in 1990. The Tennessee passing game has opened up a bit since he left, but Kelly remains sixth on the Volunteers' all-time leaderboard in passing yards.

4. Heath Shuler (1991-93)

Even though there are very few available on YouTube, Shuler was a human highlight reel who could change the outcome of games with his cannon of an arm and quick feet. He went 18-5-1 in two years as a starter and finished second in the 1993 Heisman Trophy race behind Florida State quarterback Charlie Ward. Although he left for the NFL after his junior year, at the time he held virtually every passing record in Tennessee history. However, an incoming freshman that fall would surpass him.

3. Tee Martin (1996-99)

Martin took the starting job his junior year in 1998 having to fill Peyton Manning’s shoes. He did so beautifully, beating six ranked opponents and leading the Vols to a perfect season and their first national title in more than 30 years. During that run, he also set an NCAA record for 24 consecutive completions. Ultimately, he went 18-3 as a starter and Tennessee was in the top 10 in every game for both seasons.

2. Condredge Holloway (1972-74)

The “Artful Dodger” went 25-9-2 and led Tennessee to three straight bowl appearances in a period where postseason appearances were not handed out like cars by Oprah Winfrey as they are today. Holloway also threw for 3,102 yards and rushed for 966 during his three seasons in Knoxville. Had he played in today’s era where offenses spread the field and favor quarterbacks who can both run and throw, there is no telling what his numbers and success would have looked like.

1. Peyton Manning (1994-97)

The only Vol quarterback in the College Football Hall of Fame (and Pro Football Hall of Fame), Manning is Tennessee’s all-time leader in completions, passing yards, and touchdowns. He went 39-6 as a starter and won an SEC title in 1997. That year, he also became the only player in Tennessee history to win the Maxwell Award and the Davey O'Brien Award. The below highlight reel gives you a sense of how great he was during his four years in Knoxville.

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports' Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.