Condredge Holloway was mine.
Condredge started at quarterback for Tennessee from 1972-74. I was 8 when he took his first snap. I would listen to the games on Saturday with Daddy, then watch the replay on the Bill Battle Show on Sunday. Of course, the video didn’t paint the picture any better than John Ward’s radio call of the games, but that is a story for another day.
My most vivid memories of Condredge would be seeing him emerge from a scrum of players, breaking tackles as only he could with his tear-away jersey flopping in the breeze.
I loved to watch him play football, even before I was old enough to know what was really going on. But that didn’t make any difference at the time. I was a fan. For Christmas one year, I got a football uniform from Sears & Roebuck. It was a Cleveland Browns uniform because orange is the Browns’ primary color. That was back in the day before you could buy college-branded uniforms, so the Browns were as close as my parents could get to a Tennessee uniform. (I wonder if Jimmy Haslam bought the Browns because they wear orange? If he did, I can relate.) My jersey didn’t have a number, so Mama sewed a big white No. 7 on the front and the back.
Condredge dazzled Tennessee fans every Saturday, either in Neyland Stadium or on the road, while I dazzled passing cars in my front yard. Two No. 7′s with the same wildly-successful result. Condredge could run, scramble and throw. So could I. And incidentally, I could punt and kickoff as well.
I’m only joking about the punting. I never had to punt.
The grandmother of one of my friends at the time worked with Condredge’s mother in his hometown of Huntsville, Ala., which is a half-hour away from Ardmore, Tenn., where I grew up. I thought that was the coolest thing. Knowing someone who knew Condredge’s family gave me a connection that made me want to put on that homemade No. 7 jersey even more.
I probably didn’t realize – or didn’t notice — at the time Condredge was the first African-American quarterback to start in the Southeastern Conference. To this day I admire Tennessee for giving him that chance –even more than I did then when I was 8 and didn’t understand the historical significance of it. Times were different then, hopefully a lot different. Any time Condredge’s name was mentioned in the early ’70s, kids on the playground who weren’t UT fans would always bring up the subject of race. I don’t remember specifics, but it was never flattering. I would become livid. I wanted to punch them, but I knew Condredge wouldn’t want me punching them, so I didn’t.
I met Condredge a few years back during a UT meet-and-greet at the Cleveland, Tenn., Country Club. I tried to tell him the Cleveland Browns uniform story, but I don’t think I got much of it out of my mouth. I pretty much pulled the same stunt more recently when I met another UT quarterback, which I explained here in a previous column.
This weekend, countless numbers of children all across America will fall in love with a player in a uniform who is still a kid himself. They will emulate him on and off the field. Hopefully, there a few Condredge Holloways out there.