Randy Smith: Chattanooga's Mount Rushmore Of Football Players

Monday, March 30, 2020 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith

Today I'll continue with my Mount Rushmore theme as we enter week number three of self-isolation or self-quarantine in order to slow down and eventually stop this deadly coronavirus. Keep in mind the players chosen represent athletes that I have personally seen play at some level. Today, it's football players.

Reggie White-Howard, Tennessee, USFL Memphis Showboats and NFL. Eagles, Packers and Panthers.
This is a no-brainer. Reggie White was not only the best football player I ever saw but he is also the best athlete I ever saw perform. With almost super-human strength, Reggie dominated practically every game he ever played in. His senior season at Tennessee in 1983, he was named the SEC Player of the Year. Not just defense mind you but the overall Player of the Year. Former Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer who was the Vols' offensive coordinator at the time stated that he had never seen a defensive player dominate an entire season the way Reggie White did. When he left college football he was the all-time leader in career sacks just as he was when he retired from the NFL. He led the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl title in 1996 and was a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. An ordained Baptist minister, Reggie passed away in 2004 at the age of 44. There should be a statue of Reggie White somewhere in Chattanooga honoring him as the greatest defensive lineman the game of football has ever known.

John Hannah-Baylor, Alabama, and NFL Patriots.
John Hannah was considered too short to play as an offensive lineman in the NFL. At 6'2" Hannah really proved them all wrong. After a stellar career at the Baylor school in Chattanooga, Hannah starred at Alabama and later was drafted by the New England Patriots. In the NFL, Hannah started every game he ever played in, all 183 of them. In 1999, the Sporting News named Hannah the second best offensive lineman in NFL history, only behind Anthony Munoz. There are other publications that said Hannah was the best ever. Nick-named " Hog " Hannah was selected to ten consecutive pro bowl teams and was chosen All-AFC eleven times. He became the first New England Patriot to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991. Hannah was also chosen as the starting guard on the NFL's all-time 75th anniversary team as well.    

Andy Kelly-Rhea County, Tennessee, Arena Football League
Kelly was a highly sought after recruit following his prep career at Rhea County. He signed with Tennessee and led the Volunteers to three straight bowl games in 1989, 90 and 91. He is still considered to be one of the top ten quarterbacks to ever play for the Big Orange. Kelly is remembered most for his play against Notre Dame in 1991 when he directed the Big Orange to the " Miracle in South Bend " victory over Notre Dame. His greatest success however came as a quarterback in the Arena Football League. Kelly passed for more than 61,000 yards in his 15 seasons in the Arena league and when he retired was the all-time leading passer in league history.

Eric Westmoreland-Marion County, Tennessee, NFL Jaguars and Browns
Westmoreland was an outstanding player at Marion County in the mid to late 1990s. He led the Warriors to a 56-1 record and three state championships. He rushed for 2369 yards and forty touchdowns as a senior and accumulated over 6,000 yards on the ground in his career. He signed with Tennessee out of high school and helped lead the Vols to the 1998 National Championship. His combined won-loss record at Tennessee and Marion County was an amazing 99-8. He was a third round choice in the NFL draft and played five seasons with Jacksonville and Cleveland.

This Mount Rushmore was the toughest one I've ever done. There were at least a dozen or more players who could rightfully claim a spot in this final four but there it is. Feel free to contact me with comments. On Wednesday, I'll feature Chattanooga area football coaches.

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Randy Smith can be reached at rsmithsports@epbfi.com


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