Willie Gault is the prime example of Tennessee football’s Wide Receiver U tradition from the 1970s through the 2000s. One of the greatest players in Vols history, he set the standard for being a speedy track star and a football player.
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Winning medals at the 1980 Olympic Boycott games and the 1983 World Championships shows just how athletic Gault was. Add in his NFL career as a key piece on the elite 1985 Chicago Bears squad, and he truly did it all.
Gault was Devin Hester before Devin Hester. And it all started with his college career when it comes to special teams. As Johnny Majors was rebuilding the Vols in the late 1970s and early 1980s, playmakers like Gault were crucial to the program’s ascension.
On offense, Gault was a solid receiver. He caught 89 passes for 1,482 yards and 10 touchdowns. The highlight year was his senior year in 1982, when he caught 50 passes for 668 yards and four touchdowns.
But the real highlight reel came in the return game. Gault was a solid punt returner. He averaged just under eight and a half yards a return, fielding 78 punts for 659 yards in his career and a touchdown. His true elite form, though, was on kickoffs.
In four years, Gault fielded 78 kickoffs for 1,854, which made for an average of 23.8 yards per return. The key stat, though, is four touchdowns. Gault had four kickoff returns for touchdowns, which is an incredible number! That gave him five kick return touchdowns overall when you factor in his punt return TD.
He is one guy who carried his elite return status to the NFL, which is why he was able to enjoy an 11-year career. That versatility is something Vols fans all remember, and he was specifically used to make plays in the return game. That’s why he’s so high on this list.