Best Athlete to ever play at UT

hndog609

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For football, I agree. I think he played basket ball in high school not sure. BUT best every at UT you must look beyond football.
He not only played basketball in high school but was good enough to have actually come here on a basketball scholarship. He "dabbled" in track and jumped 6' 6". To put that in perspective that jump would have tied for Bronze in the '52 Olympics. You already know the football part.

I think Doug Atkins could have achieved success in pretty much any athletic endeavor he chose to put his mind to.
 

Volosaurus rex

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These guys are "one pony shows (maybe two)". The Best" to me means able to preform well to good in any sports arena. WIDBY

In this context, I define “best athlete” in terms of versatility and a high level of achievement in multiple sports. Just as Jim Thorpe was proclaimed the “greatest athlete in the world" after winning the pentathlon and decathlon in the 1912 Olympic Games, this honor, in my mind, unquestionably goes to Ron Widby. Consider the following facts:

“From the beginning of fall football drills in 1966 through the end of hoops season in 1967, Tennessee's Ron Widby made his senior season one to remember on both fronts. One of Tennessee's most gifted athletes ever, Widby began the year being named All-America in football, the NCAA-authenticated punting champion with a 43.8-yard average on 48 punts. In basketball, he was named All-America and conference player of the year after leading a youthful Vol squad to the SEC title.

Widby was a two-time All-SEC selection for Ray Mears-coached teams in 1966 and 1967 and helped the Vols surprise nearly everybody by winning the SEC crown in 1967. He averaged 22.1 points and 8.7 rebounds his senior year. . . . Widby's career at Tennessee brought a wholesale revision to the Vol record books, as he left UT the school's second all-time leading scorer (1432 points) and the all-time single season points leader (619 points). He averaged 18.1 points per game during his career and was the SEC's Sophomore of the Year in 1964-65. . . . He was the last four-sport letterman at Tennessee, with three varsity letters in football, three in basketball, and one each in baseball and golf.

On the night of his home finale, Widby scored a school-record 50 points against LSU, a mark that lasted 20 years, before Tony White canned 51 against Auburn in 1987, the last year the Vols played in Stokely Center. . . . [T]he Vols brought home the brass ring with a dramatic triple overtime win at the old McCarthy Gym on the Mississippi State campus. Widby had 35 points and nine rebounds that night as the Vols just refused to lose. He had 10 in the three overtimes, including 10 in a row in the extra periods, two in the first, six in the second and two more in the third.” Ron Widby Led the Vols to the SEC Title in 1966-67 - University of Tennessee Athletics

During the 1964–65 academic year, he won “starting positions in both football and basketball. He also hit nearly .300 in what would be his only varsity baseball season but felt bored by that sport. He then met Tennessee's golf coach who, upon finding out that Widby had also been on Fulton's varsity golf team, invited him to try out for the team. Widby would go on to earn a letter in golf in his junior year. . . . Sportswriter Ron Higgins would say in 2011, "Few athletes in SEC history enjoyed a better senior year in 1966-67 than Ron in both football and basketball." In football, he led the nation in punting average at 43.8 yards, while in basketball, he averaged 22.1 points and 8.7 rebounds while leading the Volunteers to a conference title. He was named a second-team All-American in basketball and was also the SEC's basketball Player of the Year. He also thought about continuing with golf but decided against it because it interfered with NFL contract negotiations.

[O]nce he turned 50, he entered the qualifying school for the Senior PGA Tour twice, just missing out on his second attempt.” Ron Widby - Wikipedia
 
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goldvol

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These guys are "one pony shows (maybe two)". The Best" to me means able to preform well to good in any sports arena. WIDBY
You can be a great athlete in multiple sports, but when you are 1 or 2 in the WORLD, that is a separate level. That's not even considering that Gatlin is #2 in the world at age 38 .
no disrepect to Widby, but a punter in the NFL and multi-multi-sport college athlete is not on the same level as a world champion track star.

Which one of these guys would be on a Wheaties box?
 

1972 Grad

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You can be a great athlete in multiple sports, but when you are 1 or 2 in the WORLD, that is a separate level. That's not even considering that Gatlin is #2 in the world at age 38 .
no disrepect to Widby, but a punter in the NFL and multi-multi-sport college athlete is not on the same level as a world champion track star.

Which one of these guys would be on a Wheaties box?
I think the problem here is that the "best all around athlete" or "most accomplished athlete" is not necessarily the "best athlete." Depends on the definitions of each. Obviously, Widby couldn't run as fast or jump as high as Yves Pons, but he was very versatile and very accomplished for his time.
 

goldvol

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I think the problem here is that the "best all around athlete" or "most accomplished athlete" is not necessarily the "best athlete." Depends on the definitions of each. Obviously, Widby couldn't run as fast or jump as high as Yves Pons, but he was very versatile and very accomplished for his time.
yeah, I'm going by the thread title of 'best athlete'. There is definitely a distinction for me, that is to say it's important to compare players of different eras against the competition they faced in their day. In that case, Gatlin (and Coleman) are still world class athletes against their peers, where Widby, Pons, Majors, Manning, and most others that we revere, simply are not world class athletes despite being amazing college and pro players. So even at his sport, Widby as a punter wouldnt have been considered close to a world class athlete, as talented and athletic as he was. If Widby had been head and shoulders above everyone else in his era, then he would get into the conversation of best athlete
 

1972 Grad

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yeah, I'm going by the thread title of 'best athlete'. There is definitely a distinction for me, that is to say it's important to compare players of different eras against the competition they faced in their day. In that case, Gatlin (and Coleman) are still world class athletes against their peers, where Widby, Pons, Majors, Manning, and most others that we revere, simply are not world class athletes despite being amazing college and pro players. So even at his sport, Widby as a punter wouldnt have been considered close to a world class athlete, as talented and athletic as he was. If Widby had been head and shoulders above everyone else in his era, then he would get into the conversation of best athlete
The thing that stands out about Widby is that he did so many things so well. He played baseball, basketball, football, and golf in high school. Then, after enrolling at U.T., batted nearly .400 on the Freshman team. He gave up baseball after playing his Sophomore year , and played on the golf team. He was SEC basketball player of the year and 2nd team All American as a Senior while also leading the nation in punting. I don't think anyone else has accomplished that much in 4 sports.
 
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VOLINVONORE

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You can be a great athlete in multiple sports, but when you are 1 or 2 in the WORLD, that is a separate level. That's not even considering that Gatlin is #2 in the world at age 38 .
no disrepect to Widby, but a punter in the NFL and multi-multi-sport college athlete is not on the same level as a world champion track star.

Which one of these guys would be on a Wheaties box?
WIDBY as the greatest athlete. Gatlin has been banned because of cheating for a number of years which, in my eyes, eliminated him for being considered. Even then, Widby was still the better athlete.
 

MikeVol44

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IMHO, too much, too soon.

When you are drafted that high you are expected to be ready to play on arrival. He wasn't. Heath had to put a lot of extra work in academics and learning the playbook. No one outworked him... but the extra effort was necessary. He needed more time to learn the pro game. IMHO, he made a mistake by entering the draft as a Jr. He needed more time to develop mentally.

Then his agent gave him awful advice and he held out for a better contract. Some guys in the locker room including a very overrated Desmond Howard didn't receive him very well for unknown reasons. It just never clicked in Washington. Some of that related to Norv Turner's general performance and relationship with the team.

He began to turn things around a little in New Orleans but essentially destroyed his heel by trying to play through an injury. Given more time and better health I think he would have come around. We'll never really know.
Despuke Howard....I cannot stand to hear that guy open his lame, stupid mouth!

I thought that Heath had a horrendous foot injury while at Washington when playing the Raiders...seems like I saw him talk about how it peeled his toes on one foot completely backward and he still finished the game.
I thought he should have stayed...but he surely took a physical beating during his last season at UT.
 

1972 Grad

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WIDBY as the greatest athlete. Gatlin has been banned because of cheating for a number of years which, in my eyes, eliminated him for being considered. Even then, Widby was still the better athlete.
Widby actually competed as a professional in 3 sports: NFL, ABA basketball, and a few Senior PGA Tour events.
 

goldvol

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WIDBY as the greatest athlete. Gatlin has been banned because of cheating for a number of years which, in my eyes, eliminated him for being considered. Even then, Widby was still the better athlete.
maybe this is a typo, but the way you wrote that makes it appear he is still banned at the moment. He served his time for doping and as far as I can tell has been clean for the last 14 years. But, I definitely understand those of those that would discount his success based on that. i was actually surprised that no one brought it up sooner. To me, it only adds to his story since it includes an amazing turnaround
 

peaygolf

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I saw Widby play both football and basketball at U.T. An interesting story about Widby was when he was on the U.T. golf team. If my memory serves, the golf team played a qualifying round before every tournament to see who would make the squad for the next event. I believe that once you qualified for that week's event, that 5 guys teed it up, and they used the 4 lowest scores for the team score.

I read about the following in the Knoxville Journal in the early-mid 1960's. I believe it was in the qualifying round for that week's tournament. Widby shot even par at Beaver Brook. No big deal, right? What was unusual was that he made 9 birdies and 9 bogeys. I find that to be incredible.
@1972 Grad
Holy smokes. I have never heard anyone that has ever done that. I’ve seen, and had some weird scorecards, but that takes the cake.
 
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kbear01

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All good picks, so far. I'd like to add a few.
Alan Cockrell. Starting QB, in an option-style offense. Great runner, passer, leader. Oh, and played center field professionally. Cannon arm. Big bat.
Carl Pickens, played cb and wr. Pro Bowl WR, for the Bengals.
Terry McDaniel, a Wr, turned db. Fastest man on a very fast team. Played in several Pro Bowls, as an Oakland Raider.
 

1972 Grad

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@1972 Grad
Holy smokes. I have never heard anyone that has ever done that. I’ve seen, and had some weird scorecards, but that takes the cake.
It's hard to believe, isn't it? I might be able to do the 9 bogey part, but 9 birdies would take me awhile. Widby became a club pro somewhere near Dallas I believe, and played in a couple of Senior Tour events.
 
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You can be a great athlete in multiple sports, but when you are 1 or 2 in the WORLD, that is a separate level. That's not even considering that Gatlin is #2 in the world at age 38 .
no disrepect to Widby, but a punter in the NFL and multi-multi-sport college athlete is not on the same level as a world champion track star.

Which one of these guys would be on a Wheaties box?
Gatlin is a doper. He’s not a hero.

Coleman is legit!

Pons is the most athletic Vol I’ve seen since Patterson.
 

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