100 Days of Vols #65 - Absolutely Peerless

USA TODAY Sports

Former Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Peerless Price had an incredible career in Knoxville, punctuated by highlight-reel, game-changing plays.

It will forever be one of the greatest names in sports history.

Peerless.

Thankfully for Tennessee, Peerless Price will go down as one of the best big-play receivers in Volunteer history as well. In his immaculate four-year career in Knoxville, Price made too many big plays to count. But he'll go down in UT history for the ones he made during UT's 1998 national championship run more than any.

The Vols knew they had a good player when Phillip Fulmer recruited the 5-foot-11, 195-pounder from Dayton, Ohio, and he paid immediate dividends in 1995 with Peyton Manning throwing him the football. Though he was far from the top receiving threat on the 1996 team -- that was Joey Kent -- Price was exceptional for a second-year player, hauling in 32 catches for 609 yards and three touchdowns. He didn't even start most of the games that year but showed a tendency to make key plays even then.

In 1997 with Kent gone, Marcus Nash stepped into WR1 role, but Price was brilliant yet again, catching 48 passes for 698 yards and six touchdowns. He was an academic All-SEC selection for the second consecutive season.

Then came his big breakout. Nash was gone. Kent was gone. Manning was gone. The Vols were breaking in a new quarterback in Tee Martin who was replacing a legend in 1998. Though Martin was talented, he was very much a heave-and-hope player at times throughout that season. Most of the time he heaved it in Price's direction.

Most of the time, Price hauled in a remarkable catch.

The one that probably decorates a wall somewhere in your house was the floater that Martin sailed up in the national championship game against Florida State that Price leaped up, somehow snagged over a Seminole defensive back for a 79-yard touchdown that became the poster for the championship victory. In that game, Price had four catches for 199 yards and a touchdown and earned co-MVP award along with defensive back Dwayne Goodrich.

His excellent sports name served as the adjective that adorned Sports Illustrated's national championship game cover, which read, "No doubt About it: The Vols are Peerless."

Still, the title game wasn't Price's only remarkable play of the year. In a one-score game against Alabama earlier in the undefeated season, Price corralled a kick and returned it 100 yards for a game-sealing touchdown to end any hopes of a Bama comeback. With the Vols trailing by four points to Mississippi State in the SEC Championship Game, he made a remarkable, over-the-shoulder, 41-yard touchdown to put UT up for good in the fourth quarter.

He finished with 61 catches for 920 yards and 10 touchdowns in '98, posting six games with more than 80 receiving yards. He is third all-time in receiving yards, fourth in catches and 10th in all-purpose yards in UT history.

Price enjoyed a great few years with the Buffalo Bills but struggled after being traded to the Atlanta Falcons. He bounced around with the Dallas Cowboys and again with Buffalo before calling it a career in 2008 following a neck injury.

There are more decorated receivers in Tennessee football history. There are also names more synonymous with UT's 1990s success -- names such as Peyton Manning and Al Wilson. But the bottom line is few players in Tennessee history made as many important plays at important times as Price. He is a legendary player with a legendary name, and he'll always be one of my favorites to wear the orange.

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