Betty Bean with an update on the Jackie Walker Story:
Tennessee football great Jackie Walker's name will be on the 2013 ballot for the College Football Hall of Fame, says his brother, Marshall Walker.
"I was notified last week that Jackie will be on the ballot that will out March 1," Marshall Walker says. "Hopefully, it's this year--but if not, he's on now until he's elected."
Jackie 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 also 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.
This year, he's a lock for at least one vote to the national hall of fame. Former teammate Tim Priest is a voting member 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."
Walker washed out of the National Football League, and Priest says he's always wondered if his sexuality played a part in that.
"I've always wondered if he wouldn't have played 10 years in the NFL if that hadn't happened, because he certainly was good enough. He would have been a great strong safety. I hope we can get Jackie elected."
Players become eligible 10 years after playing their last year of intercollegiate football and remain eligible until 50 years after their last game, which means that the clock is ticking on Walker. If elected, he would join fellow Vols like Johnny Majors, Bob Suffridge, Steve DeLong, Bobby Dodd, Doug Atkins, Chip Kell, and Steve Kiner.