Tennessee football fans don’t hate Peerless Price. In fact, most probably love him for the effort he put on the field for the Vols throughout his time in Knoxville, especially during the 1998 national championship season. But he still doesn’t get the respect he deserves.
Price gets nowhere near the respect he deserves. Fans should put him in the same category as Peyton Manning, Al Wilson, Reggie White and Doug Atkins. He was as crucial as anybody, and he is the greatest playmaker in the history of the Vols.
Nobody changed a game more per-touch than Price in arguably college football history. And nobody came up bigger in big games.
In 1997, Price showed his greatness in big games with the SEC Championship. He had over 100 receiving yards and two touchdowns, helping to lead the team back against the Auburn Tigers. But with Manning graduating the next year, he somehow only got better.
Replacing Marcus Nash as the No. 1 guy, Price showed he was better. Price had 10 receiving touchdowns on the year. Of those, six came against ranked teams in games the Vols won by one possession. Four of them were lead changes. Numerous other came with the game close late in the second half.
Both of his touchdowns gave the Vols the lead against Syracuse, as did his amazing touchdown grab against the Florida Gators. He caught a touchdown to get the Vols going when they were down 21-3 to the Arkansas Razorbacks. And then he caught a bomb to give his team the lead for good in the SEC Championship game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the fourth.
Then there was the national championship game. Price caught a 70-yard pass to set up the Vols first touchdown in a scoreless second quarter. And, up only 14-9 in the fourth, he caught the legendary 79-yard touchdown pass to put Tennessee football in control.
Price had 199 receiving yards in that game, and with all the talk surrounding Peter Warrick, he was the star receiver of the day. But that was his mantra. He was the greatest playmaker in school history at receiver.
However, it’s an acceptable premise to put other receivers ahead of him on all-time Vols’ list. That’s why he’s underappreciated. Nobody should do that with Price. Sure, he didn’t have the numbers of Joey Kent or even Robert Meachem.
But Price was only the No. 1 receiver on the Vols for one year. And that was on a team that was very conservative early on and had a run-first quarterback in Tee Martin. The reason Martin was able to be so effective throwing at all was because of how great Price was. Just look at the dip in his numbers after Price left in 1999 if you’re curious.
Tennessee football has had a lot of great playmakers in its time, but nobody comes close to Price. He made big play after big play, and he even enjoyed a solid NFL career with the Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Falcons when his college days were over. Looking at key production, he’s the greatest receiver in the history of the Vols. The idea that he can be lower than than is what makes him so underappreciated.