John Henderson could have been off this list. He was part of the 1998 Tennessee football recruiting class, but academic issues kept him off that team. As a result, he didn’t win a ring with the Vols that year.
Nonetheless, the guy is arguably the greatest defensive lineman in school history. A physical freak, he was 6’7″ and pushing 300 pounds but ran a 4.7 40-yard dash. Henderson would draw double and triple teams throughout his college career.
He first exploded onto the scene in 1999 after Billy Ratliff got hurt. In 2000, Henderson became a full-time starter. That year, as a defensive tackle, he had 12 sacks and won the Outland Trophy. The guy was clearly the best defensive lineman in the game.
Then, to become more beloved, he announced he was staying for his senior season in hopes of winning a title. The next year, he became a leader and joined Albert Haynesworth to form the greatest interior line in college football history.
Tennessee football had the best rush defense in the nation because of these two guys, and they both became future NFL Pro Bowlers. But at the time, Henderson was actually the catalyst en route to another All-American season.
His peak game was 2001 against the Florida Gators, when he got a sack and deflected a pass that was intercepted. He pressured Rex Grossman, the Heisman favorite, all night on the way to the upset.
Unfortunately for Henderson, the next week was that brutal SEC Championship game loss to the LSU Tigers. The Vols were better, but he looked flat along with the rest of the rush defense. Matt Mauck, whom they didn’t prepare for, torched them. The offense committed two fourth-quarter turnovers. And as a result, the Vols lost, leaving Henderson without a ring for his career.
As a result, Henderson joined Steve DeLong and Larry Seivers as two-time All-Americans to never win a title with the Vols. Eric Berry would join that club less than a decade later, but as we mentioned, him leaving early makes him ineligible for this list. Henderson, though is not. He could actually be considered a Top 5 player in school history. So that’s why he’s so high.