Tennessee football: 10 greatest seasons by Vols who didn’t earn All-American honors

Photo by Vincent Laforet /Allsport
Photo by Vincent Laforet /Allsport /
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Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images
Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images /

Speaking of 1997, there is one performance by one key player everybody forgets about. He was randomly on the defensive line But Tennessee football does not win the SEC Championship that season without his efforts.

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Everybody likes to remember Leonard Little on defense. On offense, they remember Peyton Manning throwing it to Marcus Nash, Peerless Price, Andy McCullough and Jermaine Copeland with Jamal Lewis running the ball and Trey Teague anchoring the line at center. Anybody else they’ll remember on defense is Al Wilson and Terry Fair.

But Jonathan Brown was arguably the most important playmaker. While Little moved around from linebacker to defensive line, Brown was the breakout playmaker. He ended up with 13.5 sacks on the year.

For context, that’s second only to Reggie White’s 15 in 1983 in terms of number of sacks in a single season in school history. Brown does not get talked about a lot nearly as much as the other guys, but don’t forget he went in the third round of the 1998 NFL Draft. So he was clearly a valuable player on the Vols at the time.

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As a result, Brown had a season we should all try to remember more on Rocky Top. Yes, Little, Fair and Wilson were the consistent stars of the defense. And they probably opened things up for Brown. But his production mattered a ton. And he should have gotten All-American recognition.