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) /

The final dynasty of Robert Neyland’s tenure with Tennessee football, in his third stint, was littered with elite talent. We know of the All-Americans Doug Atkins and Hank Lauricella. Ted Daffer, Bud Sherrod, Bill Pearman and John Michels were part of that crew as well.

But Bert Rechichar, who passed away earlier this month, was an All-SEC defensive back and kicker that nobody talked about. However, he was a captain on the 1951 National Championship team and a winner in everything he did, including helping the Vols to the College World Series in 1951 in baseball.

What he did in the pros, though, was highly impressive. Expectations for him were certainly there as the No. 10 overall pick by the Cleveland Browns. He played for Cleveland in 1952, the Baltimore Colts from 1953 to 1959, the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1960 and the New York Titans in 1961.

With back to back NFL Championships in 1958 and 1959, Rechichar proved he was a born winner. After all, he won back to back championships with the Vols as well. He preceded Peyton Manning when it came to former Vols who became Colts legends.

In Baltimore, Rechicar kicked a 56-yard field goal in 1953, which at the time was an NFL record. As a defensive back, he had 31 career interceptions, including six his rookie year in 1952, seven in 1953 and six, four and five from 1955 through 1957, his three Pro Bowl years.

Rechichar also had 385 interception return yards and a touchdown, along with 22 fumble return yards for his career. He was a quadruple-threat as a kicker, kick returner, defensive back and even receiver, catching seven passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns for his career.