John Ward, the Voice of the Vols, touched the lives of so many Tennesseeans and Tennessee fans over the course of his life until he passed away on June 20, 2018, in Knoxville.
Ward was 88 years old at the time of his death.
On Monday, the four-year anniversary of his passing, the Vol Network released a moving tribute video dedicated to John Ward, which can be seen below.
He did it for you.
— Vol Network (@VolNetwork) June 20, 2022
See Also from RTI: Reliving the Best John Ward Moments
Tennessee and college football fans didn’t hesitate to share the video, which now has over 250 retweets, 66 of which have comments attached. In addition, fans flooded the replies section to share stories, memories, and gratitude.
“I was 8 years old and addressed a letter to him requesting an autograph,” Twitter user Travis wrote. “Didn’t know the address so I put Univ of Tenn; Knoxville, TN. No physical address. It found him! 2 weeks later I had a signed 8×10 b&w photo with Give em six beneath his signature.”
“I remember listening to that game when he said ‘Willie Gault is running all the way to the state capital!'” Twitter use Laura Caylor wrote with an orange heart emoji. “And I was at the game when he was honored the last time & many in between. What an ICON in Tennessee history!”
“Great memories!” Twitter user Scott in NC wrote. “He was so humble. When he signed off for the last time after the Natty it was business as usual. Even though we all knew he was retiring I was like ‘is that it?’ No tribute, no grand finale? Nope…John wanted the focus on the team and university. Class act.”
After earning a law degree from the University of Tennessee in 1954, Ward traded in his court documents from some player statistic sheets and began a career in radio. Ward’s first Tennessee broadcast was a basketball game in 1958. Ward then served in the Army before returning to Tennessee a handful of years later.
Following his return to Knoxville, Ward became Tennessee’s play-by-play voice for the basketball program in 1965, which then turned into the football play-by-play job three years later in 1968.
John Ward’s ability to paint a picture through his words is still a trait that future sports broadcasters in college are learning from. At the University of Tennessee, one broadcasting class is partly dedicated to learning from old John Ward videos and replays because of his incredible accomplishments and historical legacy.
“When I think about John Ward, I think about what an incredible life… what an incredible man… and what an incredible Tennessee Volunteer he was. Back when I was in school, and later when I was playing pro ball, whenever I would call someone in the Tennessee Athletic Department—whether I was calling Coach Fulmer, Coach Cutcliffe, Joe Harrington or anyone in the football department—I used to like when one of the assistants would answer and put me on hold, because when they put you on hold, you got to listen to John Ward radio calls from that season or some of his legendary calls from memorable games. That was the ‘holding music.’ And I used to just love staying on hold—I almost didn’t want the person I was calling to pick up. I just loved hearing his voice and hearing some of his great calls of Tennessee football history.”
Phillip Fulmer on John Ward
“Our entire Tennessee family mourns the loss of the great John Ward. The University of Tennessee has lost one of its most beloved ambassadors.
“For generations of Vol fans, John’s voice brought to life many of their fondest memories of Tennessee football and basketball. His visionary thinking paved the way for the Vol Network’s rise to prominence as the standard bearer for intercollegiate athletics marketing and broadcasting”
Johnny Majors on John Ward
“John Ward is an icon in the history of Tennessee Athletics. It’s certainly a loss for the people who love and follow the Volunteers and all of sports. There was nobody quite like John. I enjoyed immensely working with him during my 16 years of coaching here. I appreciated the great job he did and I respected him. He was a master of his profession and we had a lot of fun together.”