John Ward called games involving numerous Tennessee Vols legends during his career. Here is what some of those Volunteers had to say about him.
From Bernard King to Reggie White to Peyton Manning, John Ward was a staple of the Tennessee Vols during his 30-plus years as their radio broadcaster. The “Voice of the Vols” helped to usher in a new era of the program that helped put those legends on the map.
Well, now, those legends are paying tribute. Numerous voices have come out and spoken about John Ward, who passed away on Wednesday, and all of them are highly recognizable with the Tennessee Vols. They range from players to coaches to administrators, both former and current.
Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer had a unique relationship with John Ward. After all, as the Tennessee Vols head football coach, he did the coaches show with Ward for seven years. Here’s a bit of what he said, according to UTSports.
"“The University of Tennessee has lost one of its most beloved ambassadors. Despite our shared sadness, I believe it is appropriate to proudly reflect on and cherish the fact that John was ours. We will ensure that his legacy and memory are appropriately honored in the days, months and years to come.”"
Current head coach Jeremy Pruitt, despite never being a part of the university when John Ward was calling games, also had an appreciation for him. As a guy who clearly appreciates the traditions of the Tennessee Vols, he also commented on his passing.
Tennessee basketball head coach Rick Barnes also commented on Ward. According to Grant Ramey of 247Sports, Barnes said when he met Ward he could have listened to his stories for hours.
"“In the few years I’ve been blessed to be a part of the Volunteer family, one of the most striking things about our history is the universal love Tennessee fans have for John Ward. I’m very thankful to have known him.”"
The football coach who spent the longest amount of time with Ward, Johnny Majors, also spoke. The two were legendary when Majors hosted the coaches show, and he remembered the broadcaster in an exclusive interview with WVLT. Here’s what Majors said about the legendary broadcaster.
"“We had fun on the show quite a bit. Some Sundays, when we had lost, it wasn’t as much fun, but we made the most of it and tried to cover the bad points as much as we could and be objective.”"
Meanwhile, Bob Kesling had his own comments. Kesling was Ward’s successor, and Ward was his mentor. He worked for Ward at times and notably said in the Tennessee Vols ‘Decade of Dominance’ documentary about the football program in the 1990s that he was stunned back in 1998 when Ward said he would step down the following season. Here’s a bit of what he said, according to Wes Rucker of GoVols247.
"“When all the games started to go on television and I was spotting for him, John would not allow us to turn on the TVs in the booth. He said, ‘We’re radio guys. Our job is to get it right the first time.’ He said, ‘I don’t want you watching TV. I want you concentrating on the game.’ That put a lot of pressure on you, because you couldn’t make a mistake. You had to get it right.”"
Players got in on commenting too. Peyton Manning, one of the legends that John Ward got to cover, released a statement on his passing and what he meant to the culture of the Tennessee Vols as well.
Another quarterback, Heath Shuler, also chimed in. According to Brent Hubbs of Volquest, he noted the feeling of goosebumps when going back and listening to Ward make all the calls he made during games.
"“You get that sense of wow that’s John Ward talking about something we did on the field. Listening to John Ward calling one of your plays and the sense of feeling you have running through the T, it’s the same.”"
Before Shuler or Manning, there was legendary quarterback Condredge Holloway. He also spoke, noting that they were close friends and that Ward will be missed.
"“He had a passion for broadcasting and was a master of his craft. Nobody will ever do it like he did it.”"
Charles Davis, meanwhile, noted that Ward was like the Keith Jackson for the state of Tennessee. He said it was important for players to know Ward called their name.
"“If John Ward said your name. It was official, you were a Vol.”"
Here are a few other tweets from players on Ward as well.
There were even a few current players who commented as well, including Tennessee Vols safety Todd Kelly Jr.
Former Tennessee football offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe also had a comment.
And SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey had a statement on it as well.
Other administrators who spoke on him included former UT Sports Information Director Bud Ford, former UT athletics administrator Gus Manning and Vol Network General Manager Steve Early. Here’s a bit of what Ford said, according to the The Daily Times.
"“I always felt like basketball was his true calling. He was a tremendous basketball announcer.”"
Manning noted that he was a perfectionist, and Early said that he meant a lot to the entire state of Tennessee. Simply put, he was a big deal to everybody. John Ward helped establish a major presence for Tennessee football during his time as the Voice of the Vols.
From the famous sayings in football and basketball to the entertainment of the coaches shows, Ward knew how to keep the Tennessee Vols intriguing. He helped to propel the program to new heights and was a huge part of southern football tradition. That is why so many legends miss him. And it’s why he will always be remembered in Knoxville.