Tennessee football: Top 10 Vols big game performers in school history

5 Dec 1998: Linebacker Al Wilson #27 of the Tennessse Volunteers stands on a ladder during the SEC Championships against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at the Georgia Dome in Athens, Georgia. Tennessee defeated Mississippi St. 24-14.
5 Dec 1998: Linebacker Al Wilson #27 of the Tennessse Volunteers stands on a ladder during the SEC Championships against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at the Georgia Dome in Athens, Georgia. Tennessee defeated Mississippi St. 24-14. /
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Photo by Vincent Laforet /Allsport
Photo by Vincent Laforet /Allsport /

Tennessee football’s greatest playmaker, Peerless Price was an incredible big-game player for the Vols during his four years in Knoxville. Nobody had more impact per touch in school history than Price, and that was especially true during the 1998 national championship game.

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  • Price had the misfortune of stepping in as the No. 1 receiver in a year that the Vols turned to a dual-threat quarterback in Tee Martin. That’s what kept him from being an All-American like Al Wilson. If Peyton Manning were still there in 1998, his stats would’ve been through the roof, and he would’ve been confirmed as the greatest receiver in UT history. I already have him there. Most don’t.

    Anyway, what Price did do was come up big for the Vols in the biggest moments. Nobody in college football history has more game-changing plays in big moments in a season than Price did that year. And it started with the year before.

    In the 1997 SEC Championship game against the Auburn Tigers, Price led the team in receiving and had two touchdowns en route to a 30-29 win. But what he did in 1998 was the most amazing thing ever.

    As Martin’s No. 1 receiver, Price had a touchdown reception against every ranked team the Vols played. And they faced six ranked teams. On top of that, four of those TD receptions resulted in lead changes.

    Price had two of those lead-changing touchdown receptions in the season-opening 34-33 win against Syracuse on the road. He had another one, the only big passing play of the game, against the Florida Gators to break the losing streak.

    Then, against the Georgia Bulldogs, Price broke the game open with a late touchdown to send the Vols to a 22-3 victory against an undefeated Top 10 team. The Alabama Crimson Tide were unranked this year when the two faced off, but they were still a rivalry. And with the lead cut to 14-11, Price scored a touchdown on a kickoff return.

    Down 21-3 against the No. 10 ranked and undefeated Arkansas Razorbacks, Price sparked the rally by scoring the first touchdown en route to their 28-24 comeback win. Then he had a 50-yard touchdown reception against the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the SEC title game to give the Vols the lead for good in the fourth quarter.

    But after all of that, he saved his best performance for last. No stage could be bigger than the 1998 national championship game. And that means Price could have no better performance than that one. With everybody talking about Peter Warrick, Price was the one who was the star with four receptions for 199 yards, one touchdown and a deep reception to set up another one.

    Next: Top 10 Vols teams who didn't win championships

    From the end of 1997 onward, Price never failed to score in the biggest moments. Nobody came through on a bigger stage, and it’s why he’s No. 1 on this list. He is right there with Peyton Manning and Al Wilson for greatest Tennessee football players of the Phillip Fulmer era and of all time. So, as I stress all the time with him, he deserves his due.