It was a bit difficult to make the decision on whether or not Tee Martin belongs on this list. Some fans would say he is a bit overrated and just had a ton of talent around him en route to that 1998 national title. Others would call it unfair that he never got treated in the same way as Peyton Manning despite doing what Manning couldn’t.
The truth is they’re both right. And the general consensus among educated Tennessee football fans is that Martin should be beloved for leading the Vols to a national title as quarterback in 1998 but that everybody should remember his role was to be a game manager who made key plays when possible.
Then there’s the final wrench in the process, the fact that he has now turned down a chance twice to join two different Vols’ staffs. And fans are bitter about that.
Taking it all into account, he’s underappreciated. Martin deserves a break for turning down a chance to work on Butch Jones’s staff. Now being promoted to offensive coordinator at USC, that was a great move in hindsight. On top of that, there was no reason for him to leave USC in a lateral career move to take the same position in Knoxville.
Then there’s his play on the field. Yes, he wasn’t Manning. And yes, he had a ton of talent around him. But it’s beyond unfair to view him as a game manager.
Despite struggling early on in the year in 1998, Martin was key during the brutal part of their schedule. He had two touchdown passes in the opener against Syracuse and directed the game-winning drive. He then had a key touchdown pass against the Florida Gators and set up what would be the game-winning field goal by Jeff Hall again thanks to a brilliant overtime scramble.
Don’t forget his two fourth-quarter touchdown passes against the Mississippi State Bulldogs and his two key touchdown passes in the national championship either. Martin was a crucial playmaker, so while he’s beloved, he still deserves more respect in Knoxville.