The University of Tennessee will unveil a new and permanent tribute to four trailblazers from throughout the storied history of Tennessee football as a kickoff to Neyland Stadium’s year-long centennial celebration.
On Thursday, Sept. 2, larger-than-life bronze statues commemorating Lester McClain, Jackie Walker, Condredge Holloway and Tee Martin will be unveiled in the plaza outside Gate 21 at Neyland Stadium.
Tennessee commissioned noted master sculptor Brian Hanlon, who—over the past several months at his New Jersey studio—meticulously crafted each Vol legend in a unique, game-action pose.
“It’s an honor for this university to be able to permanently recognize the impact of these men in such a powerful way,” Athletic Director 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.”
A dedication ceremony during which the statues will be unveiled will take place on Sept. 2 before Tennessee’s football season-opener against Bowling Green. Due to space limitations related to campus transit services in the Gate 21 area (classes are in session that day), attendance for the ceremony will be limited, but the event will be streamed live on UTsports.com and the Tennessee Athletics YouTube channel.
Lester McClain | 1968-70
Wingback | Antioch, Tenn.
Tennessee sophomore wingback Lester McClain—who in 1967 became the program’s first Black player—also made history as the first Black SEC player to score a touchdown when he hauled in his first of two scoring receptions during UT’s 24-7 win at Georgia Tech on Oct. 12, 1968.
“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 | 1969-71
Linebacker | Knoxville, Tenn.
Knoxville native Jackie Walker earned distinction as the SEC’s first Black football All-American after leading a formidable Tennessee defense as an explosive junior linebacker with a knack for snagging interceptions. Walker passed away in 2002. He will be represented by members of his family, including his brother, Marshall, at the Sept. 2 dedication.
“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, 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.”
Condredge Holloway | 1972-74
Quarterback | Huntsville, Ala.
With a national TV audience tuned in, Tennessee sophomore Condredge Holloway dazzled during a dominant, 34-3 season-opening victory at Georgia Tech on Sept. 9, 1972, while becoming the first Black player to start at quarterback on an SEC team.
“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 | 1996-99
Quarterback | Mobile, Ala.
After guiding Tennessee to an undefeated 1998 season and an SEC Championship, junior Tee Martin made history as the first Black quarterback to lead an SEC team to a National Championship by guiding the Volunteers to a 23-16 triumph over Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 4, 1999.
“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!”