We go back into history for this one. Bill Blackstock was a member of the 1951 national championship Tennessee football team and one of the final major weapons to play for Gen. Robert Neyland. Blackstock is on this list because he set an NCAA record that stood for over 50 years.
En route to that national title, Blackstock averaged 25.9 yards per punt return, fielding 12 for 311 yards. It wasn’t until Maurice Jones-Drew in 2005, averaging 28.5 yards a return with the UCLA Bruins, that the record was broken.
But that was at a time when the then-Pac 10 literally played no defense. The finesse soft conference had basketball games every night, so you have to take that with a grain of salt. Sure, it was a different time, but Blackstock got his numbers in a conference that prided itself on playing elite defense.
You don’t hear much of Blackstock’s name outside of this mention in the record books. In fact, he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. Other names from that ’51 team, including Doug Atkins and Hank Lauricella, are entrenched in Rocky Top lore.
But Blackstock deserves a ton of credit for his play, and the lack of mention of him is highly disrespectful. On offense, he was sometimes listed as a tailback and other times as a quarterback. But his major efforts were in the return game, and it’s more than enough for us to put him on this list. The Vols likely don’t win that national title without him. So he belongs on this list.