Tennessee football great Jackie Walker is on the 2013 ballot for the College Football Hall of Fame.
Walker, a linebacker who led the Vols to 30-5 record from 1969-1971, including a Southeastern Conference Championship in 1969 and the Liberty Bowl in 1971, was the first African American to captain an SEC team (one of his alternate captains was offensive lineman Phillip Fulmer). He was the first African American in the SEC to be named an All-American, and he set an NCAA career record for interceptions returned for touchdowns by a player other than a defensive back that still stands.
Walker, who was gay, died of AIDS in 2002. In 2007, a Metro Pulse story asked why he had not been named to a single hall of fame. He was named to the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame the following year, and then the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.
He’s a lock for at least one vote. Former teammate Tim Priest is a voting member of the national hall of fame and says he single-shot votes for Tennessee guys.
“Jackie is certainly deserving. He accomplished about as much as anybody ever has,” Priest says. “He set SEC and national records for scoring on fumble recoveries—and in those days, you could not pick up a fumble and run it back. You had to catch it in the air. He had explosion at the point of impact as well as anybody you ever saw and he was the fastest guy on our defense, including all our defensive backs. And you know what? He was a good teammate.”