Joey Kent was Peyton Manning’s go-to wide receiver for three years and Tennessee football’s all-time receiving leader as a result. But with Kent gone in 1997, Manning would up his game and turn Marcus Nash into a superstar.
Nash helped Manning have the greatest offensive season ever for a UT quarterback in what should have been a Heisman campaign. He caught 76 passes for 1,170 yards and 13 touchdowns. All three of those were single-season school records at the time, and two of them still stand. Robert Meachem broke the receiving yardage record in 2006.
However, Meachem still managed to reach All-American status that year. Nash got no recognition at a national level for his play in 1997. All the shine went to Manning, rightfully so, and also the freshman running back in Jamal Lewis. But Nash was as much a key part of that team. He should have gotten more love than he did, even if he didn’t work out at the next level.
Although Peerless Price, Jermaine Copeland and Andy McCullough were all their to rack up stats, Nash was reliably Manning’s go-to guy. And he notably was the one who turned a hitch route into an 80-yard touchdown reception for the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter of the SEC Championship game to beat the Auburn Tigers.