Lifetime love of the game – and other notes

Marvin Westwestwords

Some of us work a lifetime for love of the game. Sufficient funds are a favorable by-product.

You may find it hard to believe but words really are sometimes more meaningful than money.

Two old Vols, old friends, are struggling with health problems. Chip Kell is back in the hospital. Steve Kiner is in a memory treatment center in Tampa. I am reminded of things they said in times past.

In Chip’s book, “All in God’s Glory,” are genuine sermons that appear, at first glance, to be just ordinary paragraphs.

We once shared a smile about the book. He said he was not as good a writer as I was. I said he had no idea how bad I was as a football player.

Kiner once made an unforgettable impact in a 30-second speech in an almost empty NFL dressing room. He introduced me to his coach, Bum Phillips. All Steve said was he wanted Bum to meet me, that I had made a difference in his life. He walked away.

Coach Phillips said that was a first, that he had never heard such a sincere message in so few words. He let that soak in.

“And about a sportswriter.”

Kell was a Tennessee guard and center in the Doug Dickey era, two-time first-team All-American, three times all-Southeastern Conference, twice recipient of the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, awarded to the best blocker in the country.

I still think Kiner is the No. 1 linebacker in Tennessee football history. He was twice an All-American. He attacked with full fury. Dickey once said Steve was faster than most of the running backs he ran down.

Bear Bryant once said “Kiner was the best in this league since Lee Roy Jordan played for me.”

Kell and Kiner are in the College Football Hall of Fame. It’s prayer time.


Start worrying now about Creighton, Tennessee’s very late Friday night NCAA tournament foe. The Bluejays (one word) defeated highly regarded UConn in a Big East main event. That says a lot. The score was 85-66. That says more.


Former Vol pitcher Garrett Crochet will be the Thursday opening-game starter for the Chicago White Sox against Detroit.

Garrett Crochet at Tennessee

“Very shocked to say the least,” said Crochet, 24, a former relief pitcher. “It’s humbling and very gratifying. It’s a huge honor.”

Crochet, a 6-6 left-hander, was selected by Chicago with the No. 11 pick in the 2020 draft. His first contract included a friendly little bonus of $4,547,500.

On September 18, 2020, Crochet became the first player from that draft to be promoted to the majors without playing in the minor leagues. With the White Sox, he is 3-7 with a 2.71 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 73 innings.


Josh Dobbs and Jauan Jennings are together again, this time with the San Francisco 49ers. They teamed up in 2016 for the last-second Hail Mary pass that gave the Volunteers a 34–31 victory at Georgia.

Jauan is a highly regarded but totally unpredictable receiver for San Fran. The 49ers just signed Dobbs for a couple of million to be the backup quarterback.


It might be time for big basketball schools to stop hiring former NBA players with zero head-coaching experience. That roll of the dice keeps coming up snake-eyes.

Jerry Stackhouse is gone from Vanderbilt. Kenny Payne didn’t make it at Louisville. Michigan just said goodbye to Juwan Howard. Patrick Ewing (Georgetown) and Chris Mullin (St. John’s) failed to live up to the hype.

I don’t think Penny Hardaway is forever at Memphis. He is a major money donor but he talks too much.


Remember Kaidon Salter? He was the star quarterback signee of Jeremy Pruitt’s time at Tennessee.

Kaidon Salter at Liberty

“I’m a tricky quarterback out there,” said Salter, prep prize from Cedar Hill, Texas. “You got to read my mind. You think you have me, but you really don’t.”

Tennessee had him but then it didn’t. He was twice arrested for relatively minor drug incidents within three months. Josh Heupel was the coach who gave him a second chance and the coach when strike two occurred.

Heupel immediately sent Salter away and sent two messages with him: Players who get a second chance best not squander it. And to be a Vol quarterback, you better have your act together.

A different coach who had two strikes against him, Hugh Freeze, welcomed Salter to Liberty University. Salter’s first pass produced a touchdown. He was the leader last year as the Flames went 13-0, 31 touchdowns passing, 12 as a runner.

He did not go with Freeze when the coach got the Auburn job.

Pro scouts say Kaidon is a dynamic dual-threat QB with a loose, live arm strong enough for all levels. Same scouts say the natural playmaker is going to be rich.

There is no spilled milk worthy of tears. If Kaidon had remained a Volunteer, Nico would probably be somewhere else.

Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is


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