Quarterback Hendon Hooker played his last game in Neyland Stadium on Saturday. There’s a lot to look back on in a short time at Tennessee.
Hooker led Tennessee to an undefeated season at home. He has also played himself into Heisman consideration.
The Virginia Tech transfer helped bring life to Tennessee’s football program and produced one the Vols’ most successful football seasons in recent memory.
Let’s take a look back at Hooker’s top five moments in front of the Vol faithful in Knoxville:
No. 5 – Hooker enters the game for Joe Milton
You can’t talk about Hooker’s journey at Tennessee without the beginning.
In Tennessee’s second game of the 2021 season, quarterback Milton went down with an ankle injury. Hooker came in and had a pretty good day, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Kenny Pickett and Pittsburgh. Still, the era began.
Hooker finished 15-of-21 passing with 188 yards and two touchdowns. He also had an interception in the game. For a guy thrust into the game in the second quarter due to injury, the performance wasn’t too bad. Actually, it was pretty good.
“Hendon did a great job coming off the bench, competing, giving us a chance, making some plays with his feet, and being decisive with the ball in his hands,” Heupel said after the Pitt game in 2021.
And with that, Hooker would become the leader that Volunteer fans have come to love.
No. 4 – Hooker’s first start
Let’s go back to 2021 when Hooker got his first start when Tennessee took on Tennessee Tech.
“I feel like I had a pretty good showing,” Hooker said following his first start. “I have some things I can clean up. I need to be a lot cleaner in my intermediate game and taking care of the ball.”
A pretty good showing indeed, Hooker finished 17-25 passing with 199-yards and three touchdowns against Tennessee Tech. He also ran in another touchdown.
Not bad for his first start as a Volunteer. Little did Tennessee fans know then, but Hooker would become a Heisman contender and maybe even a College Football Playoff spot.
No. 3 – Hooker runs wild to beat Florida
In front of a checkerboarded Neyland Stadium, Hooker utilized his legs en route to a win over the Gators.
Hooker showcased his dual-threat talent against the Gators, running for 127 yards on 13 carries and one touchdown.
Hooker torched Florida through the air as well, completing 22-of-28 passes for 349 yards and two touchdowns.
If his receivers were covered, or the pocket collapsed, Hooker took off and in several high-pressure moments against Florida. The Heisman voters definitely took notice of Hooker’s leg talent, and he put it on show against Florida.
No. 2 – Hooker orchestrates a 15-second drive to upset Alabama
Alabama kicker Will Reichard missed the go-ahead field goal, setting up Hooker with :15 seconds to drive for a potential game-winner from his own 32-yard line.
On the first play, Hooker hits Ramel Keyton to push the Volunteers just past mid-field.
With nine seconds left, Hooker hits Bru McCoy on a jump ball within field goal range. Tennessee barely got a timeout off with two seconds left. Chase McGrath kicks a knuckling field goal, and the rest is history.
Tennessee fans won’t forget that game anytime soon. Whether it be storming the field or throwing the goalposts into the Tennessee River, October 15th, 2022 will forever be ingrained in many people’s minds.
No. 1 – Hooker directs the band in his final home game
Tennessee fans have all seen the image of Peyton Manning directing the band in Rocky Top. On Saturday, Hooker did the same. Of course, Hooker wouldn’t trade this moment for an Alabama or Florida win, but Saturday was special because of the culmination of all those moments in time and twists in fate.
“That’s always kind of been a dream for me,” Hooker said, following the game with Missouri “Just coming here and seeing Peyton stand up there, at the band, I always thought that was the coolest thing ever, strike up the band. That’s what we want to do every week. Put the ball in the end zone, strike up the band.”
The video of Hooker directing the band quickly went viral on social media. It was a pretty cool way for the quarterback to go out, and it is a terrific image for all Tennessee fans to remember of their beloved quarterback.