Condredge Holloway Jr. made history when he took the field as the starting quarterback for the Tennessee Volunteers football team in the fall of 1972. As the first African American starting quarterback in the SEC, Holloway helped to pave the way for African American quarterback across the southeastern United States.
Holloway was born in Huntsville, Alabama and graduated from Lee High School in Huntsville. In 1971, Holloway was drafted fourth overall by the Montreal Expos as a shortstop.
At the time Holloway was 17, which was too young to sign a contract under Alabama law. However, his mother preferred that he attend college and as such, refused to sign the contract on his behalf. As a result, Holloway decided to attend the University of Tennessee, where he started for both the Vols’ football and baseball teams.
Holloway was a highly-touted quarterback recruit, wanted by teams across the nation, but his home state’s flagship school was not one of them. The former governor of Alabama George Wallace told legendary coach Bear Bryant that Alabama was not ready for a black quarterback. Bryant had no choice but to pass this message along to Holloway, so the Huntsville native decided to look elsewhere to play the position he loved.
At Tennessee, Holloway found in head coach Bill Battle a man who was committed to playing the best player at every position, no matter the race — a stance the young quarterback had to respect.
During his freshman year, Holloway played on the freshman team since 1971-72 was the last season that freshman football players were ineligible for varsity. However, Vols fans were excited for Holloway, as the freshman team drew 31,000 fans for a matchup with Notre Dame’s freshman squad.
When Holloway took the starting job in 1972, he had big shoes to fill following a 11-1 Sugar Bowl winning season by Tennessee. However, Holloway answered the bell, going 10-2 and finishing off the season with a win in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl.
Holloway led the Vols to the upper echelons of the college football sphere, finishing No. 11 in the UPI Coaches Poll and No. 8 in the Associated Press Poll.
Holloway finished out his college career 15-7-2 in his final two seasons. During that time, Tennessee played in two bowl games, winning one. For his career, Holloway finished with 3,102 yards and 18 touchdowns on 238 completions through the air.
On the ground, he rushed for 966 yards and nine touchdowns in 351 attempts. In football, Holloway was named to both the All-SEC and All-America teams in 1975. He finished with a .383 batting average and still holds the Vols record hitting streak with 27 games.
Although he was a trailblazer, social issues weren’t on Holloway’s mind at the time.
“It was a matter of winning over the confidence of my teammates and just going out and playing,” Holloway said.
“We had a ball; we had a good time. And all the outside distractions, it never got into our team … we didn’t allow it to. Our focus was trying to win ball games and trying to be the best we could be. And all the social issues could be handled by someone else.”
Holloway would go on to play 13 years in the CFL after college. He was drafted by the New England Patriots, but the Patriots selected him as a defensive back so Holloway decided to go north of the border where he could play quarterback.
Playing for three different teams, Holloway was a two-time Grey Cup champion and the 1982 CFL Most Outstanding Player.
Since Holloway debuted, African American quarterbacks have thrived in the SEC, with examples like Cam Newton and Jalen Hurts leading their teams to SEC and national championships.
All 14 teams in the SEC have now had African American starting quarterbacks at some point in their history.
Tennessee, in particular, has had many players follow in Holloway’s path, including Tee Martin, Josh Dobbs and current starting quarterback Jarrett Guarantano.
Holloway was able to experience his legacy firsthand, as he was actually on staff for the Vols during the 1997 season, when Martin led Tennessee to the SEC and national championships.
The progress since the days when Holloway first started can be seen when looking at this coming year’s starting quarterbacks in the conference. Of the 14 schools in the SEC, six of the projected starting quarterbacks are African American.
Holloway’s impact as the first African American starting quarterback in the SEC will continue to be felt for years to come.