The Artful Dodger Who Wore Number Seven

He was our quarterback when I became an undergraduate student at the University of Tennessee. The program was in the beginning of a steady decline into near-oblivion. But nobody knew that at the time, partly because of the wonderous exploits of Condredge Holloway.

Condredge Holloway evades a Clemson defensive end before throwing the famous pass to Larry Seivers to defeat the Tigers in Knoxville, 29-28, on the game's last play. October 26, 1974. Holloway is the subject of an ESPN documentary entitled "The Color Orange: The Condredge Holloway Story", Sunday night at 8pm EST, that gives an in-depth look at the first black starting quarterback in the SEC.

He could throw, but he could run, too. It was his evasive running ability that gave him the nickname that, for people outside of the southeast, made you think he played baseball in the National League. [And, by the way, he was a good enough baseball player to have done that.]

He sometimes seemed uncomfortable in the pocket, so he would take a step or two, up, back, left, right. Then, in a flash, he might take off. He would throw – no, he would run. He would… You never knew until he did it, and some of the things that he did were the stuff of legend.

He was our hero. But there was a dark underbelly, too. Holloway was the first black starting quarterback in the SEC. He wasn’t the first black starter in the conference –  a Vol, Lester McClain, holds that honor. But Holloway was the first leader of an SEC school as a black man.

There were always… well… there were comments. He had a nickname or two that were more than derogatory. They were occasionally uttered even by the same orange-clad people who on a sunny southern saturday would yell with pride as Number 7 would do something to make you remember it for many years.

It was much worse, by orders of magnitude, on the road.

It was all part of the long, lingering aftermath of the racial turmoil that was the fifties and sixties. It had only been a little more than a decade since the university itself fully integrated (black undergraduates were first admitted in 1961).

It lived on the field, too. Some opposing players didn’t just want to tackle him. They wanted to maim him. Because he was black.

And, perhaps that’s why Condredge was always a little uncomfortable in the pocket. As long has he was moving, he had a chance to survive.

But he did more than that. He flourished with a style that has not been seen on Shields-Watkins Field since. His style was theatric.

In the 1974 opener against UCLA in Knoxville, Holloway ended up in the hospital after a blind-side tackle injured his shoulder, only to make an operatic entrance back into Neyland Stadium, in time to make a memorable run for glory – a 12-yard dash for the right pylon that tied the game. It was the ABC game of the week. A young, black quarterback from Huntsville, Alabama became nationally known.

There were other great moments, including the pass to Larry Seivers to defeat Clemson on the game’s last play. [If Larry hadn’t caught it, I would have, standing in the first row of the south end zone, east rear pylon.]

His leadership in the benchmark victory over Penn State was another.

We don’t really know if it was his size, or ability, or color that kept Condgrdge from being an NFL QB. What we know is that he is in the Canadian Football League Hall of Fame based on a 13-year career as a professional quarterback.

During that professional career, Holloway’s legacy back in Knoxville was underway. Jimmy Streater, then Tony Robinson, then Sterling Henton, then Jerry Colquitt, then Tee Martin. Tennessee had become the school of the black quarterback in the south. It happened because Bear Bryant wouldn’t start a black quarterback at Alabama. It happened because Bill Battle told Condredge that if he was good enough, he was good enough to play quarterback for the Tennessee Vols.

It happened because Condredge Holloway was simply more than just good enough. He had the right stuff.

He was the stuff of legend.

If you saw him live, you know.

If you didn’t, here is something from 1973 to wet the appetite before ESPN presents The Color Orange: The Condredge Holloway Story, Sunday February 20 at 8:00 pm EST.

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8 responses to “The Artful Dodger Who Wore Number Seven”

  1. Jan Evett says :

    I was there 1973-75. Glad you posted this and will try to catch the ESPN special. Enjoyed the clip, too. I remember meeting him with a group of friends at Maltese Falcon. Do you remember going there? I’m sure it must not be there any more. I think it was across from Andy Holt apts wasn’t it?

    • norcalvol says :

      “Meet you down at the Falcon” was a common phrase indeed. Drank many beers and ate many pizzas there over the years. Yes, I believe the Falcon was on the first floor of Shelbourne Towers (an apartment building not part of campus) which was the building behind Morrill Hall, which was across the street from Andy Holt apts.

      • rockytop78 says :

        I, too, have fond memories of the Maltese Falcon. I had a buddy who lived first in Carrick Hall, then in Morrill Hall, and we spent many pleasant late evenings at the Maltese Falcon; including one memorable one in 1975 after we watched Tennessee, led by Rodney Woods, beat Kentucky in basketball 103-98 at Stokely Fieldhouse, and we then celebrated with pizza, many pitchers of dark beer, and listening to “Black Water” by the Doobie Brothers on the jukebox. A great time, and a great place.

  2. Jan Evett says :

    Yes, I do recall that we could see it from our A.H. 13th floor apt. Were you in a fraternity? Was your wife at UT also? Sorority? I’m a KD.

    I’m sure we probably all crossed paths sometime over the years. I grew up in Nashville, but I’ve been gone from TN for so many years that I’ve lost touch with most everyone except people I keep up with online.

  3. rockytop78 says :

    I remember the Clemson game where Condredge Holloway hit Larry Seivers on the last-second, two-point conversion for a victory; I thought that it was simply the most amazing play that I had ever seen (and I still think that it’s pretty remarkable, even after all these years). I was sitting about halfway up in Section L, and so had a good angle on the throw and catch.

    When I attended an “all-sports” camp at UT in the summers of 1969 and 1970, I remember walking from Gibbs Hall — where the campers stayed — into Stokely Fieldhouse, and looking at all the team pictures, and the pictures of UT All-Americans of every sport. Among the old photographs there, were two pictures that were identified simply as “The Stop” (the goal-line stand against Billy Cannon and LSU in 1959) and “The Run” (“Jackpot” Johnny Butler’s 56-yard run against Alabama in 1938 or 1939). After seeing Condredge Holloway’s pass to Seivers in the Clemson game, I always thought that the Athletic Department should have put a photo of that play up there in the Fieldhouse, and called it “The Pass.”

    I also remember the 1974 home opener against UCLA; it was my first game as a UT undergraduate, and I had brought my high school girlfriend with me to the game (in retrospect, a complete waste of a seat; but that’s another story). As I recall, the first play was a run off left guard; and then, in an electrifying moment (and catching UCLA completely by surprise), UT runs up to the line without a huddle, Holloway takes the snap, drops back, and unloads a long bomb down the left sideline that the UT receiver hauls in after blowing by the UCLA defender, and takes into the end zone for a touchdown. The crowd goes wild. Of course, after Holloway gets hurt, Tennessee sputters (I think Pat Ryan came in and threw an interception), and we ultimately tie UCLA; but a great memory about the start of the game.

    I still see Condredge Holloway around the youth athletic fields at Lakeshore Park here in Knoxville; his son — who I am guessing is a year or two younger than my son, and so around 9 or 10 — plays youth baseball there. You are correct that Condredge could have played professional baseball, he was that talented as well in baseball.

    • norcalvol says :

      Thanks for those memories, rt.
      I recently read a transcript of an interview with Larry Seivers who recalled the famous 2-point conversion. He said the play was a total improvisation. Holloway rolled one way and the play immediately changed – he circled around and then rolled the otherway – he was yelling at Seivers to run to the corner. Larry heard him, ran, and caught that amazing pass. Holloway had two defenders hanging on him when he threw the ball. I remember everybody in the stadium was standing during the play. It was amazing.
      There has to be a picture of the catch somewhere. You are right – it should be a Gaddafi-sized poster!!

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