Tennessee football: 15 Vols who were better in the NFL

Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /
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Tennessee Volunteers
Tennessee Volunteers. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images) /

We go back in history for this one to a guy who enjoyed an NFL career largely etched in the time before the merger and the Super Bowl era. John Gordy was part of some great Tennessee football teams and a solid member of the 1956 10-0 SEC Championship team that should have had a Heisman winner in Johnny Majors.

He was First-Team All-SEC as an offensive lineman on that team, to be fair. So his efforts in blocking for guys like Majors were indeed appreciated. But he didn’t bring the same national recognition that Majors, Buddy Cruze and Bill Johnson brought, despite being a captain on that team.

Still, Gordy showed his value at an even greater level in the pros. As a second-round pick in the 1957 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, Gordy started at right guard in 129 of the 134 games the franchise played from 1957 to 1967. He played in the other five as well.

Meanwhile, he was a Pro Bowl lineman for three straight years from 1963 to 1965. In his rookie season in 1957, he led the Lions to their most recent NFL Championship. That year, he had two playoff starts as well.

So Gordy was an NFL champion and a three-time Pro Bowler. He did play through the first two Super Bowl seasons, even if they weren’t technically called Super Bowls during that time. So he’s got a bit of a connection to the modern era. Add in the fact that he served as president and executive director of the NFLPA and he had a very recognizable pro career.