Tennessee is honoring former players Lester McClain, Jackie Walker, Condridge Hollaway and Tee Martin with statues at Gate 21 of Neyland Stadium.
Sculpture Brian Hanson is building the “larger-than-life” bronze statues that will be unveiled on Sept. 2, the day Tennessee opens the 2021 football season against Bowling Green.
“It’s an honor for this university to be able to permanently recognize the impact of these men in such a powerful way,” Tennessee director of athletics Danny White said. “We are proud of what their names represent, and I believe this is a fitting tribute. They carried themselves with strength and grace as they led the way for so many others. I love that our football student-athletes will pass by this installation during every Vol Walk. I hope it serves as a reminder of those who came before them and paved the way for progress.”
Lester McClain was the first African-American football player at the University of Tennessee and was the first African-American SEC player to score a touchdown, hauling in two receiving touchdowns in a 24-7 win at Georgia Tech in 1968.
The Antioch, Tennessee native recorded 1,126 yards and 10 touchdowns in three seasons in Knoxville.
“It’s certainly an honor to be remembered and placed into history at the University of Tennessee like this,” McClain said. “It’s a wonderful thing. I hope I can influence many others to come forth and give their very best to the university and continue to make a difference in the world.
“I do regret that my parents are no longer around to be part of the dedication. Dr. Bill Garrett is someone else who would have been very proud. He played a major role in me coming to the university and earning a scholarship. He felt like I could do well, so he stood up and fought for me. I can’t take any credit without remembering him and all he did for me.”
Jackie Walker, a Knoxville native and three-year starter, was the first African American All-American in SEC history. Walker recorded 11 interceptions and five touchdowns as well as 258 total tackles in his junior and senior seasons
Walker’s family will represent him at the Sept. 2 ceremony as the Tennessee legend past away in 2002.
“I want to first say that I’m honored to be able to represent the Walker family when Jackie’s statue gets unveiled,” Marshall Walker said. “I believe Jackie would feel it’s a tremendous honor to have a statue on the University of Tennessee campus. None of us ever expected this. I’m ecstatic, proud and happy that (Danny White and Marcus Hilliard) and the rest of the UT staff and coaches saw this as important and found a way to honor these historic University of Tennessee athletes.”
In 1972, Condredge Holloway became the first African-American to start at quarterback for an SEC team. Holloway shined in a 34-3 win over Georgia Tech. Holloway threw for 3,102 yards and ran for 966 yards in three seasons. The Huntsville, Alabama native totaled 27 career touchdowns while also playing baseball.
Holloway has served in administrative roles at Tennessee for much of the last 20 years.
“When I first heard about this, I was pretty shocked,” Holloway said. “It’s a great honor. I’m nothing but grateful. I enjoyed all the things I did there at the University of Tennessee, but a lot of the credit for this honor goes to my teammates.
“Back when I was playing, I never thought about opening doors for players in the future. I just thought about trying to play my best and get along well with my teammates. It’s a team game. There are 11 guys out there (on the football field), and all of us worked together to play well and win.”
Tee Martin was the first African-American quarterback to lead a SEC team to a National Championship, throwing for 2.164 yards and 19 touchdowns in Tennessee’s 1998 National Championship season.
Martin served as an assistant coach under Jeremy Pruitt from 2019-20.
“I want to say thank you to the Tennessee athletic department—past and present—for this outstanding honor,” Martin said. “I want this statue to represent those who came before me and opened doors for me at the University of Tennessee—Lester McClain and Condredge Holloway, to name a few. I want to thank my teammates and coaches for their hard work and love during some of the most memorable years in UT football history. I will always love you all. Go Vols!”
There will now be five statues around Neyland Stadium as the four trailblazers will join General Robert Neyland.