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.
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.