Five Decades of Greatness

By Hannah Vanbiber

Over the last five decades, the Chattanooga area has been home to exceptional high school football athletes. Men and women have fond memories of great rivalries, unforgettable games and their favorite high school football standouts. Many extraordinary high school football players had their careers cut short. But what may surprise many is that over the last 52 years, several of the area’s greatest players went on to successful college and professional football careers. With assistance from a select group of local high school football historians and hometown high school football experts, what follows are 25 football greats who played for area high schools and went on to excel for college teams and play professional football.

1. Reggie White
6’5”—291 lbs.
Defensive End

High School:
Howard High School (‘80)
College: University of Tennessee (2 time All-American)

Professional:
15 years NFL
Philadelphia Eagles
Green Bay Packers

Honors/Awards:
Super Bowl Champion XXXI
13-time Pro Bowl Selection
College Football Hall of Fame
Pro Football Hall of Fame

Dubbed the “Minister of Defense” by his college teammates and voted regularly in the top ten NFL players of all time, Reggie White journeyed from the halls of Howard High School all the way to a Super Bowl title and two Hall of Fame inductions.

White was born in Chattanooga in 1961 to Thelma Collier. At age twelve, he announced to his mother that he wanted to be two things in life: a football player and a minister. He was ordained as a minister at age 17 and earned All-American honors in football at Howard before being recruited to the Tennessee Volunteers in 1980. While at the University of Tennessee, White was named All-American, setting school records for most sacks in a college career, season, and game. He won SEC Player of the Year his senior year. He played in the USFL for two seasons before signing with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL, accumulating 124 sacks  over eight seasons. He was voted by ESPN SportsNation in 2008 as the greatest player in Eagle’s history.

In 1993 White signed with the Green Bay Packers, where he revitalized the franchise, and became, at the time, the Packers’ all-time leader in sacks. The Packers defeated the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI, where White made a record three sacks on the quarterback.  He was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1987, 1991 and 1998.

Tragically, White died in December of 2004 at age 43 of causes related to a respiratory disease and possible sleep apnea. He left behind his wife, Sara, and two children. Though he had the stature and skill to intimidate opponents, those who knew him remember him as a man of character, gentleness, and honor.

2. John Hannah 
6’2”—265 lbs.
Offensive Guard

High School:
Baylor School (‘69)

College: 
University of Alabama
(2 Time All-American)

Professional: 
12 years NFL
New England Patriots

Honors/Awards:
9-time Pro Bowl Selection
Super Bowl XX
College Football Hall of Fame
Pro Football Hall of Fame

John Allen “Hawg” Hannah is widely regarded as one of the greatest linemen in college and NFL history. Hannah played tackle and guard for Paul “Bear” Bryant at Alabama and left guard for the Patriots. Sports Illustrated dubbed him “The Best Offensive Lineman of All Time” on its August 3, 1981, cover.

Hannah grew up in Albertville, Alabama, but attended Baylor School in Chattanooga, where he became a Midsouth champion football player. After being recruited to Alabama under Bear Bryant, he earned All-American honors twice and helped Alabama to an SEC Championship.

Upon graduation, Hannah was selected in the first round of the NFL draft by the New England Patriots, where he played all 12 years of his NFL career. Hannah
pounded his way to national acclaim as the mainstay of the Patriots’ offensive line. He was named All-Pro 10 times and All-AFC 11 times and selected to play in nine Pro Bowls.  Recognized for his deep commitment and high expectations, Hannah missed only five games during his career. He earned Offensive Lineman of the Year honors for four straight years (1978-81), and in 1985, Hannah played in Super Bowl XX, though the Patriots lost. In 1991, he became the first Patriots player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of
Fame.

Hannah retired from professional football in 1985 and currently runs a leadership training system. His family includes his wife, Page, whom he calls the “true Hall of Famer,” and two children.

 

3. Bob Johnson
6’5” – 262 lbs – Offensive Lineman

High School: Bradley County High School (‘67)

College: Tennessee (2 Time All-American)

Professional: 12 years NFL

•Cincinnati Bengals

•3-Time ProBowl Selection

•College Football Hall of Fame

•AFL All-Star in 1968

4. Charles Hannah
6’5” – 260 lbs – Offensive Lineman

High School: Baylor School (‘73)

College: Alabama (All-American)

Professional: 12 years NFL

•Tampa Bay Buccaneers

•LA Raiders

•Super Bowl Champion XVIII

 

5. Bobby scott
6’2” – 201 lbs – Quarterback

High School: Rossville High School (‘67)

College: Tennessee

Professional: 14 years (12 NFL) (2 USFL)

•New Orleans Saints

•New Jersey Generals

•Chicago Blitz

 

6. Andy Kelly
6’3” – 230 lbs – Quarterback

High School: Rhea County High School (‘86)

College: Tennessee

Professional: 15 years Arena Football League

•Charlotte Rage

•Rhein Fire

•Nashville Kats

•Dallas Desperados

•Detroit Fury

•New Orleans VooDoo

•Kansas City Brigade

•Utah Blaze

Threw for a total of 61,420 yards over the course of his football career.

 

7. Eddie Brown
5’11” – 187 lbs – Defensive Back

High School: Marion County High School (‘70)

College: Tennessee (All-American)

Professional: 6 years NFL / 2 Years USFL

•Cleveland Browns

•Washington Redskins

•LA Rams

•Chicago Blitz

•Arizona Wranglers

•2x Pro Bowl Member

 

8. Mike Jones
5’11” – 182 lbs – Wide Receiver

High School: Riverside High School (‘78)

College: Tennessee State

Professional: 7 years NFL

•Minnesota Vikings

•New Orleans Saints

•Kansas City Chiefs

•New England Patriots

 

9. Terdell Sands
6’8” – 340 lbs – Defensive Lineman

High School: Howard High School (‘97)

College: UTC

Professional: 9 years NFL

•Kansas City Chiefs

•Green Bay Packers

•Oakland Raiders

•New England Patriots

10. Eric Westmoreland
6’0” – 233 lbs – Linebacker

High School: Marion County High School (‘96)

College: Tennessee

Professional: 5 years NFL

•Jacksonville Jaguars

•Cleveland Browns

 

11. Donnie Elder
5’11” – 180lbs – Defensive Back

High School: Brainerd High School (‘81)

College: University of Memphis

Professional: 8 years NFL

•New York Jets

•Pittsburg Steelers

•Detroit Lions

•Tampa Bay Bucs

•San Diego Chargers

 

12. David Roller
6’2” – 270lbs – Defensive Tackle

High School: Rhea County High School (‘67)

College: Kentucky

Professional: 7 years NFL/ 2 years CFL / 1 year WFL

•New York Giants

•Green Bay Packers

•Minnesota Vikings

•Hamilton Tiger Cats

•Southern California Sun

 

13. David Douglas
6’4” – 285 lbs – Offensive Lineman

High School: Rhea County High School (‘81)

College: Tennessee

Professional: 5 years NFL

•Cincinnati Bengals

•New England Patriots

14. Adarius Bowman
6’3” – 233lbs – Wide Receiver

High School: Notre Dame High School (‘03)

College: Oklahoma State

Professional: 3 years CFL (currently playing)

•Edmonton Eskimos

•Winnipeg Blue Bombers

15. Josh Bullocks
6’0” – 207lbs – Defensive Back

High School: Hixson High School (‘01)

College: Nebraska

Professional: 6 years NFL

•New Orleans Saints

•Chicago Bears

 

16. Tom Mullady
6’3” – 232 lbs – Tight End

High School: McCallie School (‘75)

College: Rhodes (formerly Southwestern at Memphis)

Professional: 6 years NFL

•New York Giants

17. Ed Smith
6’1” – 220lbs – Linebacker

High School: McCallie School (‘75)

College: Vanderbilt

Professional: 2 years NFL / 2 years USFL

•Baltimore Colts

•Arizona Wranglers

 

18. Steve Sloan
6’0” – 185lbs – Quarterback

High School: Bradley County High School (‘61)

College: Alabama

Professional: 2 years NFL

•Atlanta Falcons

 

19. Reggie Mathis
6’2” – 220lbs – Linebacker

High School: Notre Dame High School (‘74)

College: Oklahoma

Professional: 2 years NFL

•New Orleans Saints

 

20. Eddie Moore
6’1” – 235lbs – Linebacker

High School: South Pittsburg High School (‘99)

College: Tennessee

Professional: 3 years NFL

•Miami Dolphins

Current Occupation:
AVP at First Volunteer Bank

 

21. Daniel Bullocks
6’0” – 210lbs – Safety

High School: Hixson High School (‘01)

College: Nebraska

Professional: 2 years NFL

•Detroit Lions

22. Edwin Lovelady
5’9” – 180lbs – Wide Receiver

High School: Brainerd High School (‘81)

College: Memphis

Professional: 1 year NFL

•New York Giants

23. Gary Tucker
5’11” – 205lbs – Running Back

High School: Brainerd High School (‘63)

College: UTC (formerly UC)

Professional: 1 year NFL

•Miami Dolphins

 

24. B.J. Coleman
6’3” – 233lbs – Quarterback

High School: McCallie School (‘07)

College: UTC

Professional: Drafted NFL

•Green Bay Packers

 

25. Cotton Letner
6’1” – 215lbs – Linebacker

High School: Meigs County High School
(‘57 Valedictorian)

College: Tennessee

Professional: 1 year NFL

•Buffalo Bills