The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame on Friday announced the recipients of its 2023 Achievement Awards, with a significant multi-sport honors haul for the Big Orange.
Tennessee Chancellor Donde Plowman, Vice Chancellor/Director of Athletics Danny White and Football Head Coach Josh Heupel were collectively named Tennesseans of the Year.
Football quarterback Hendon Hooker earned Male Amateur Athlete of the Year, presented by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA).
And the 2022 Tennessee baseball team was honored as the Male Amateur Team of the Year.
The honors will be formally presented as part of the Hall’s 2023 Banquet, presented by the Tennessee Titans, Saturday, July 22, at the Omni Nashville Downtown. Tickets can be ordered at www.tshf.net. The Class of 2023 includes UT football All-Americans Eric Berry and John Henderson, as well as Lady Vols track & field star and Olympic gold medalist Tianna Madison.
In selecting its Tennesseans of the Year, the Hall identified Plowman’s targeting and hiring of White, and White’s subsequent appointment of Heupel early in 2021 as the catalysts to a rapid gridiron resurgence on Rocky Top.
Inheriting a program that was 3-7 prior to his arrival, the Vols have produced an 18-8 record in two seasons under Heupel, including the program’s first 11-win campaign in over two decades last fall that culminated with a victory over ACC champion Clemson in the Capital One Orange Bowl. The remarkable regular season saw Tennessee top Florida and LSU before an epic triumph over Alabama on the Third Saturday in October with over 11.6 million viewers tuning in. Heupel was named 2022 Associated Press Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year for his efforts.
Under the trio’s watch, Rocky Top became the epicenter of the sport as ESPN’s popular College GameDay originated twice on the UT campus in the fall of 2022. Meanwhile, an undefeated home season and Neyland Stadium’s pageantry were on full display in drawing six consecutive sellouts and a total of 703,727 fans for an average of 100,532—both of which ranked in the top-five nationally.
Tennessee’s recent football success has been complemented by comprehensive excellence across all sports on campus. In its first full academic year under White’s leadership (2021-22), UT finished 13th in the LEARFIELD Directors’ Cup standings and secured its first-ever SEC Overall All-Sports Trophy. Tennessee finished first in the SEC Men’s All-Sports standings while earning a second-place finish in the SEC Women’s All-Sports standings.
Hooker was the leader of the nation’s No. 1 offense and put together arguably the greatest quarterback season in program history, earning SEC Offensive Player of the Year honors and finishing fifth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy. A finalist for the Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, Manning Award and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, Hooker generated 3,565 yards of total offense and broke his own school record for single-season completion percentage at a 69.6 clip. He led the SEC in four different categories and ranked second in the nation in quarterback rating at 175.5. Last week, Hooker was selected in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, becoming Tennessee’s highest drafted quarterback since No. 1 pick Peyton Manning in 1998.
The Male Amateur Team of the Year, Tennessee baseball, climbed to new heights in 2022, setting a program record with 57 victories en route to winning SEC Regular Season and SEC Tournament titles. The Volunteers achieved the program’s first No. 1 national ranking in any poll in week six of the season before settling in as the unanimous top-ranked team in week seven. UT was ranked No. 1 in at least one poll during 12 weeks of the season and spent 10 weeks as the nation’s unanimous top-ranked team.
Tennessee became the first NCAA Division I team since at least 1972 to lead the country in both home runs and ERA. The Vols’ 158 long balls shattered the previous program record of 107 while ranking fourth in NCAA Division I history, including the most by any team in the BBCOR bat era (since 2011).
Head coach Tony Vitello was named the Perfect Game National Coach of the Year for the second season in a row and was also tabbed as the Southeast Region Coach of the Year by the ABCA. The Vols set a program record with nine players earning postseason All-America honors, including four first-team selections, which was also a school record. Tennessee had four players earn Freshman All-America honors, as well.
Sophomore pitcher Chase Dollander racked up the postseason honors following a dominant year on the mound, becoming the first UT player to be named SEC Pitcher of the Year and earn consensus first-team All-America honors since Luke Hochevar in 2005. Freshman right-hander Chase Burns also brought home national acclaim after being named the NCBWA Freshman National Pitcher of the Year and the Collegiate Baseball Co-Freshman National Player of the Year, while Sunday-starter Drew Beam was the SEC Freshman of the Year.
The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame also annually presents a Pat Summitt Lifetime Achievement Award in honor of the iconic Lady Vols basketball coach who led Tennessee to eight national championships. This year’s recipient is professional wrestling legend and Memphis native Jerry “The King” Lawler.
About the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame
Established in 1966, the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, sponsored by the Tennessee Lottery, enshrines and honors athletes, teams, coaches, sportswriters and sports administrators who have impacted the history of Tennessee sports. The Hall serves as a platform to connect athletes, coaches, sports fans, and supporters by acknowledging life achievements implemented through sports. The Hall celebrates athletes of all forms from all across the state. Additionally, the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame aspires to educate youth about the importance of healthy habits and the positive impact they have on lifestyle choices. The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame is located at 501 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203. For more information, visit www.tshf.net.