Pound for Pound

by Katie Faulkner

These players became high school football legends thanks to ferocious tenacity, resilience, and skill exceeding their smaller statures. They may have been undersized in the positions they played, but never in grit or determination. Success came from hitting harder, enduring longer, playing through pain, and never showing fear. These are the guys you’d want to be in a foxhole with, but always regretted meeting on the gridiron. Pound for pound the toughest guys on the field, here are a few of the most memorable moments and traits of these potent powerhouses of the past.

(Above) Potter carries the ball
Potter, number 96, stands with teammates.

Pete Potter

Height: 5’8” | Weight: 150
School: Red Bank [1950]
Position(s): WB, HB

Known For: Integrity and resolve. Potter’s son, Ralph, recalls a story his father told him from his time playing high school football. “Dad told me about one time where a guy tried to block him, and did something pretty dirty. Dad complained to his coach on the sideline, and his coach called a new play and said, ‘Now you take care of it.’ So he ran a crack back block and the guy never saw him coming – he knocked his block off!”

Interesting Facts: Pete Potter was a national prep boxing league champion during high school and went on to become a legendary coach at McCallie.

Photos provided by Ralph Potter

PoundForPound.AbercrombieJoe Abercrombie

Height: 5’ 10” | Weight: 150
School: Brainerd [1963]
Position(s): CB

Known For: Fearlessness and consistency. “Joe wasn’t afraid to go up against anybody. He hit hard, and he gave 100% every day. What made him a great player beyond his size was guts!” says former teammate DeWayne McCamish.

Interesting Facts: “Joe used to pull out his front bridge of two upper teeth before practice and games so he would look more gap-tooth ferocious to his opponents,” former teammate Steve Goldsmith recalls. “It was quite a sight! He looked as mean as his trainwreck hits.”

PoundForPound.FloydLonnie Floyd

Height: 5’6” | Weight: 160
School: Chattanooga City [1964]
Position(s): HB, DB

Known For: Fearlessness and love of the game. “His size never made a difference because he was so fast,” explains former teammate and brother Richard Floyd. “The word ‘fear’ wasn’t even in his vocabulary, and he lived for football.” Lonnie wasn’t able to finish his senior season after breaking his collarbone, and decided if he couldn’t play football he would join the military.

Interesting Facts: Lonnie was a paratrooper in the 173rd division, Special Forces, who gave his life in Vietnam saving a friend. Posthumously, Lonnie was awarded the Bronze Star with Clusters for Valor.

Ronnie Campbell

Height: 5’11” | Weight: 185
School: Chattanooga City [1968]
Position(s): C, G, LB

Known For: Being consistently outstanding. Campbell started on both sides for three of his four years playing high school football. During that time, he won countless recognitions as one of the most valuable linemen that Chattanooga City had ever seen. His former coach, Don Shockley was quoted as calling Campbell, “[T]he best lineman he ever had at City.”

Interesting Facts: Campbell was voted “King for a Night,” and awarded the “Most Popular” class superlative his senior year. He is said to have run play drills in his sleep as a grown man.

PoundForPound.ArnoldHenry Arnold a.k.a. “Big Man”

Height: 5’8” | Weight: 155
School: Howard School [1958]
Position(s): HB

Known For: Unparalleled speed. Arnold is considered by many, one of the best running backs in Howard School history. His speed and incredible shiftiness made him nearly impossible to tackle. He earned the ironic nickname of “Big Man” in reference to his smaller stature, but used his size to his advantage.

Interesting Facts: Arnold used his fast-paced athleticism to excel in track and swimming while at Howard, in addition to football.

Photo provided by  Herman Prater

PoundForPound.TurnerMichael Turner a.k.a. “Big Mike”

Height: 5’7” | Weight: 145
School: Howard School [1987]
Position(s): TB, CB

Known For: Versatility. Turner opened his high school football career by intercepting two passes as a sophomore, and returning one for a touchdown. At only 5’7”, Turner still managed to break up plays and snag interceptions. In one game, he had already rushed for 75 yards in the first half, but was pulled out of the game in the beginning of the second half after breaking his ankle.

Interesting Facts: After his ankle injury, Turner went on to be the TSSAA State Champion wrestler in the 145 pound weight class his senior year.

Photo Provided by Herman Prater

Gene Etter

Height: 5’8” | Weight: 148
School: Chattanooga Central [1957]
Position(s): QB, PK

Known For: Weightlifting before it was cool. “In the 1950s, the lifting of weights was frowned upon for football and other sports. I read in a magazine that Billy Cannon, a running back for LSU who won the Heisman Trophy, lifted weights. This made an impression on me, so I started lifting, and I believe that gave me the ability to compete against players much bigger than I,” Etter explains.

Interesting Facts: As place kicker, Etter also set the PAT season record at 32 for the Chattanooga area during his freshman season. The record was later broken by his brother, Bobby, with 36.

PoundForPound.TownsJackie Towns a.k.a. “Whitey”

Height: 5’4” | Weight: 125
School: Chattanooga City [1962]
Position(s): HB, MLB

Known For: Never letting his size be a deterrent. “His tenacity and resolve far exceeded his size! He did anything and everything he could to improve. If we were practicing and needed someone to fill in for a tackle dummy, you’d look up and there that little rascal would be!” former teammate Richard Floyd recalls. “I don’t think he could feel pain.”

Interesting Facts: Towns was also a boxer and fought the last match of a Golden Gloves final with a broken hand.

PoundForPound.CarterBilly Carter a.k.a. “The Human Spearoid”

Height: 5’11” | Weight: 180
School: Ridgeland & Lakeview Fort Oglethorpe [2002]
Position(s): RB, OLB, DE, DB

Known For: Diving tackles. “He would dive over piles of players and still make the tackle,” says former coach John Allen. ”Everybody I lined up against was bigger than me,” Carter says. “I just used my speed and technique to get by them or stop the play. I was very competitive too, so I used that as motivation.”

Interesting Facts:  Carter earned his nickname after an iconic play against Rome. After a Rome defensive back had stripped the ball from a teammate and began to run it back with a line of players blocking for him, Carter charged toward the ball carrier at full steam, launched over the mass of Rome players, and speared the ball carrier out of bounds – hence, “The Human Spearoid.”

Jim Brown, number 76, passes the ball.

Jim Brown a.k.a. “Tiger Brown” & “Jack Rabbit Jimmy”

Height: 5’7” | Weight: 158
School: Baylor School [1964]
Position(s): RB, DB, KR

Known For: Speed and agility. But Jim recalls a time when even his legendary speed didn’t keep him unscathed, “When I was a sophomore I weighed probably 148 pounds, and we played postgraduates. During those games I got knocked down and out of bounds left and right… It was a learning experience!”he laughs. “But it doesn’t serve you well to be scared.”

Interesting Facts: Jim holds the record in male athletics at Baylor for the most Varsity Letters (14). He scored three touchdowns (including an 89-yard kickoff return) to help unseat the #1 ranked Oakridge team his senior year. Jim holds the highest punt return average at Georgia Tech (since 1966).

PoundForPound.BradfordJoel Bradford

Height: 5’10” | Weight: 150
School: The McCallie School [2007]
Position(s): WR, SE, PR, KR, P, K

Known For: Endurance and skill. “Because he was our kicker and our split end, a lot of times we would pass the ball 40 or 50 yards to Joel sprinting down the field, and he would immediately go back out with special teams and kick a field goal,” Bradford’s former coach, Ralph Potter recalls. “He may have had the best ball skills out of anybody that ever played for me.”

Interesting Facts: Bradford was a three-sport athlete, playing football, basketball, and soccer.

PoundForPound.CrowderRichard Crowder

Height: 5’7” | Weight: 155
School: Rossville High School [1970]
Position(s): LB

Known For: Toughness and strength. “Richard might’ve been the toughest kid I’ve ever coached. He could take a hit, and he certainly could deliver a hit!” former coach Lynn Murdock laughs.

Interesting Facts: “We played Dalton, and they kept getting across the middle on us. And I told the linebackers, ‘If he catches that ball across the middle one more time, it’s your fault.’ So on the next play, Richard knocked that kid flat on his back!” says Murdock.

Craig Underhill

Height:6’1” | Weight: 160
School: Notre Dame [1979]
Position(s): ILB

Known for: Playing through injury. Early in the state semifinal game, Underhill separated his shoulder. With a makeshift harness attached, he went on to record double-digit tackles and never left the game.

Interesting Facts: While playing in the state quarterfinal game, Underhill recovered their opponent’s fumble near the goal line and returned it over 90 yards to upset the other team’s lead and win the game.

PoundForPound.SalterKirk Salter

Height: 5’6” | Weight: 160
School: Chattanooga City [1962]
Position(s): G

Known For: Intensity. Salter was known as fun-loving and friendly– until the whistle blew. During a kickoff, Salter was running down the field and was hit so hard that his legs were knocked out from under him. “He turned a 360-degree flip, landed on his feet, and never broke stride,” former teammate Richard Floyd says.

Fun Facts: Salter’s first time bowling was in high school, and between his focused fast pace and notable strength, he bowled too soon and broke his lane’s frame.

PoundForPound.BinegarPreston Binegar a.k.a. “Mighty Mouse”

Height: 5’10” | Weight: 160
School: Ooltewah [2003]
Position(s): LB

Known For: Tackles for loss (TFLs). Binegar co-led the city in TFLs during his senior season. He also spent extra time in the weight room and training for each season. “Any success you find in this sport, and really in most things in life, is going to come from the preparation you put in during the off season,” Binegar says.

Interesting Facts: During his senior season, Binegar was ranked among the top five in the state for TFLs, and the top 10 for total tackles. He was also recognized as Chattanooga’s Firefighter of the Year in 2016.

Justin Wheeler

Height: 5’6” | Weight: 160
School: Chattanooga Christian School [2017]
Position(s): RB, FS, OLB

Known For: Leadership and playing big. Former Coach Mark Mariakis remembers Wheeler as someone he could always count on to make the big play or hit, lead the team, and take on bigger guys. “We were playing the #1 seed in a West Tennessee region one night, and Justin got matched up with this highly ranked, 6’5” quarterback. And Justin won that battle all night long!”

Interesting Facts: Wheeler just graduated this past May and is preparing to play college football at Bethel University.

PoundForPound.WrightTyler Wright a.k.a. “Pineknot”

Height: 5’8” | Weight: 150
School: East Ridge [2005]
Position: RB, WR, SS, CB, LB, K, KR

Known For: Resilient strength and powerful hits. Wright hit a Rhea County player returning an interception so hard that the player’s helmet went flying. He also hit Cleveland’s 5’11” and 230-pound running back so hard that he knocked the running back out of bounds and knocked himself unconscious.

Interesting Facts: Wright received his nickname after leveling the varsity’s starting fullback at practice as a freshman on the scout team. “Coach yelled out, ‘That kid’s tougher than a pine knot!’ and it just stuck after that,” Wright laughs.

PoundForPound.TramellAllen Trammell A.K.A. “Tram Bladehead”

Height: 5’10” | Weight: 160
School: Baylor School [1961]
Position(s): TE, DE

Known For: Determination to win every battle. Light and lean, Trammell played in positions notoriously reserved for the “big guys.” “I used my size to my advantage because I could run, and I was pretty quick,” he laughs.

Interesting Facts: Trammell had a pivotal pick and caught the final touchdown pass in Baylor’s 7-0 win over Marion Military Institute his senior year. “Being tough meant playing hard, all the time; playing through pain,” Trammell says.

Mitchell Hall

Height: 5’8” | Weight: 185
School: Signal Mountain [2012]
Position(s): RB, DE, CB

Known For: Work ethic and tenacity. Hall made a habit of practicing with people who would help him improve. “I always practiced against the upper classmen, and I think that gave me the mental confidence I needed when playing against bigger guys in a real game,” Hall says.

Interesting Facts: Former coach Bill Price credits Hall with being a main playmaker for Signal Mountain saying, “He always played hard on both sides of the ball and was a really crucial component to Signal Mountain’s 2010 State Championship team.”

PoundForPound.ArmstrongRobby Armstrong

Height: 5’8” | Weight: 175
School: Boyd Buchanan [2004]
Position(s): DT, NG

Known For: Smart use of leverage. One of Armstrong’s former coaches, Grant Reynolds, says “Robby was also a great wrestler so he learned to use his leverage really well to take down guys who were much larger than him. He was a talented defensive tackle.”

Interesting Facts: Armstrong was the MVP of Boyd Buchanan’s state title game in 2003, where he forced a fumble and recovered it.

Reverend Richard Byers a.k.a. “Dickey”

Height: 5’10” | Weight: 158
School: Chattanooga Central [1962]
Position(s): LB

Known For: Being a hard hitter. “Dickey was our opponent, and we watched film preparing for other teams. We saw him and learned very quickly that Dickey would hit everyone he could, every chance he got, as hard as he could! He wasn’t afraid of the devil,” says former high school opponent Richard Floyd.

Interesting Facts: “Dickey hitchhiked from East Brainerd every day just so he could play for Coach Etter,” Floyd recalls. During high school he also played against Steve Spurrier (Johnson City) and Steve Sloan (Bradley Central).

Keith & Kevin Cobb a.k.a. “Cobb Twins”

Height: 5’7”(both) | Weight: 145 & 150 (respectively)
School: Cleveland [1994]
Position(s): HB, CB & TB, CB (respectively)

Known For: “Out-quicking” anyone they encountered. Keith and Kevin, twin brothers, competed with each other regularly to improve their skills. “We had a really high work ethic, and confidence in our running ability that helped us to play bigger than our positions,” Keith explains. “We knew that no one would give us better competition than each other, because we both wanted to be the best so badly,” Kevin laughs.

Interesting Facts:  The Cobb brothers rushed for over 4,000 yards combined and close to 100 combined touchdowns in their high school careers. They went on to play together at the University of Memphis.

PoundForPound.BobbyEtterBobby Etter

Height: 5’8” | Weight: 140
School: Chattanooga Central  [1963]
Position(s): QB, PK

Known For: A cannon of a kicking leg. Those who knew Etter were impressed by his diligent pursuit of improving his kicking, even though he was already one of the best kickers Central had ever seen. Etter set the season record of 36 PATs for the Chattanooga area during his senior year, breaking his brother Gene’s previous record of 32.

Interesting Facts:  Etter kicked for the University of Georgia and went on to kick for the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL.  A few years after college he was named the place-kicker for the SEC’s All-Decade Team. Etter’s top football highlight was during a Georgia vs. Florida game, when his holder fumbled a bad snap and Etter picked it up and ran it in for a game-winning touchdown, faking out defenders and barreling over tacklers to reach the end zone.

PoundForPound.PriceBill Price

Height: 5’10” | Weight: 160
School: Red Bank [1979]
Position(s): QB, DB

Known For: Work ethic and weight training. Price was in the weight room any time the doors were open, in order to surpass his 160-pound high school weight and play at the next level. “Like a little bull in a pasture has to make enough noise so the bigger bulls know he’s a bull; guys who are smaller have to work harder and do extra to stand out,” Price explains.

Interesting Facts: Price won the “Ironman” award for his weight room accomplishments at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga.

Brent Clift, number 33, runs the ball.

Brent Clift

Height: 5’9” | Weight: 155
School: Hixson [1987]
Position(s): RB, TB

Known For: Being unstoppable. “My proudest night was definitely when we played Oakridge at Oakridge and I carried for a little over 200 yards. They were 3rd in the state at the time, and we beat them,” Clift recalls. As far as his smaller stature, Clift says he was shifty, used his hips a lot, and when he did get hit, he prided himself on never letting the pain show.

Interesting Facts: Brent averaged 30 carries per game throughout high school.

PoundForPound.HenleyMatt Henley

Height: 5’8” | Weight: 185
School: Boyd Buchanan [2005]
Position(s): FB, LB

Known For: Grit and dedication. Henley’s former coach Grant Reynolds remembers him as someone who “didn’t back down from anyone and did whatever was necessary to help his team.” Henley recalls a time that he went up against someone much larger. “We were in film after the Baylor game, and the guys were laughing about this hit I was involved in. They had a huge, athletic lineman. I don’t know why I did it because our quarterback could outrun him; but I peeled back and hit him as hard as I could. He went down, but I bounced off of him like pinball,” Henley laughs.

Interesting Facts: Henley was part of Boyd Buchanan’s 2003 State Championship team.

PoundForPound.BeasleyBeasley lifts his helmet on the sideline.

Ben Beasley

Height: 5’10” | Weight: 185
School: Boyd Buchanan [2010]
Position(s):  RB

Known For: Reliability and rushing abilities. Beasley rushed for over 1,800 yards his senior year, and says the trick for him was to never let it enter his mind that he would be running through larger opponents. “You have to know that your preparations are enough. And sometimes, it’s just your turn to take a hit. You have to trust that you have 10 other guys on the field who are going to make their blocks,” Beasley says.

Interesting Facts: Played in Boyd’s 2009 state championship game.

Richard Floyd

Height: 5’6” | Weight: 145
School: Chattanooga City  [1962]
Position(s): HB

Known For: Playing bigger than his size. Floyd jokes, “Growing up, I either had to play with kids a lot smaller than me or a lot larger than me, and I usually picked the big kids. I just felt like I had to prove myself every time I stepped on the field.”

Fun Facts: His senior year, Floyd scored a touchdown and made the tackle to stop Murfreesboro Central from scoring a touchdown that would’ve won the game. Floyd is still friends with several of his former teammates. “The camaraderie and lifetime friendships that we built were invaluable.”

PoundForPound.OwensBrian Owens a.k.a. “Pig Pen”

Height: 5’8” Weight: 170
School: Gordon Lee High School [1990]
Position(s): FB, LB

Known For: Never being afraid to get dirty. Owens earned his nickname by being one of the grittiest guys on the field, and leaving every game with plenty of dirt on his jersey. “I’ll always remember one play, we were playing Bremen, and I ran over this guy. Coach got so excited about it that he broke his clipboard over his hand while he was cheering!” Owens chuckles. “I always lined up against guys who were bigger than me. I just made sure I hit them before they hit me.”

Interesting Facts: Owens went on to play collegiate sports, but his scholarship was in baseball rather than football.

PoundForPound.ScottTedarrell Scott a.k.a. “T.D.”

Height: 5’7” | Weight: 149
School: Howard School [1997]
Position(s): WR, DB

Known For: Speed. Scott worked on his speed constantly and always played with his older, larger cousins and friends. His competitive nature drove his desire to excel, and by the time he played at Howard he was nearly uncatchable. “When I was young, I couldn’t stand to lose to my cousins, so I would run with them again and again until I could beat them,” Scott recalls.

Interesting Facts: His senior year, Scott helped Howard come from behind (21-0) at halftime to beat Brainerd (42-21) with 180 yards receiving, including a 60-yard touchdown.

Photo provided by  Herman Prater

PoundForPound.JonesSteve Jones

Height: 5’8” | Weight: 165
School: Chattanooga City [1962]
Position(s): DE

Known For: Toughness and never making excuses. Jones was known for “cleaning the clocks” of any ball carrier that came his way. His former teammate Richard Floyd recalls, “Running backs that chose to run over him? Bad career move! He had one speed and it was wide open.”

Interesting Facts: Jones had only one eye, but according to Floyd, you couldn’t tell. “He never let that be an excuse or a complaint. I think it made him play harder. And he took some hits on that side, but he never showed pain. An opponent would’ve never known.”

Woodburn, number 20, makes an impressive tackle.

Gary Woodburn

Height: 5’9” | Weight: 185
School: Tyner High School [1980]
Position(s): RB, DB

Known For: Hard tackles and great follow-through. “I always hit as hard as I could. You were supposed to get your head across the ball, hit the chest, and then come up through your opponent’s chin. They don’t teach that anymore!” Woodburn chuckles. Woodburn was often selected by his coach at practice to demonstrate hitting and tackling for sled drills.

Interesting Facts: “One of my best games was my senior year when I scored five touchdowns playing against Reggie White, who was at Howard at the time. I’ll always remember that,” Woodburn recalls.