The 1998 national champion Vols: Where are they now?
Editor’s note: Welcome to Tennessee Week. Our special series — “Undefeated. Unexpected. Unforgettable.” — celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Vols’ 1998 national championship season.
It’s no surprise that several Tennessee football players from the 1998 national championship team went onto the NFL after their college careers were done. There was too much talent for the NFL to ignore.
However, the NFL only lasts so long. Here is a look back on most of UT’s 1998 starters and where they are now:
QB: Tee Martin
1998: Martin stepped into former UT quarterback Peyton Manning’s position and handled it quite well. With a strong arm and the ability to run the football, Martin turned in key plays that would help the Vols to their perfect record.
After: Martin is currently the offensive coordinator at Southern California. Martin was considered for at least two coaching positions in which he could have returned to UT, but the two parties couldn’t come to an agreement.
LT: Chad Clifton
1998: Clifton was in charge of protecting Martin’s blindside on passing plays and helping the Vols’ dominant running game.
After: Clifton went from protecting Martin in college to protecting Brett Favre in the NFL. After being selected in the second round of the 2000 NFL, Clifton was selected to two Pro Bowls and won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers. Clifton was the victim of a violent hit by former NFL defensive lineman Warren Sapp that caused a severe pelvic injury. Clifton eventually returned and the NFL expanded the “unnecessary roughness” rule to include hits like Sapp’s.
LG: Mercedes Hamilton
1998: Hamilton was the quiet mauler of UT’s 1998 offensive line. Like his fellow linemen, he was key in opening running holes for UT’s talented corpe of running backs.
After: Hamilton is currently a Machine Tech at Bridgestone in Atlanta, according to his Linkedin account.
C: Spencer Riley
1998: In addition to handling the middle of UT’s offensive line, Riley was always the funny member of the offense and always good for a quote for assembled reporters. Riley was the overachiever of the group but he handled that role well.
After: Riley climbed his way up the high school coaching ladder before he was named the head coach of his alma mater, Jefferson County High School, in 2016.
RG: Cosey Coleman
1998: Coleman was probably the most physically gifted of UT’s 1998 offensive linemen. He was also a key signee for the Vols. He was part of an incredible trio of Atlanta-area recruits the Vols signed in 1997, along with running back Jamal Lewis and safety Deon Grant. Coleman was named first-team All-SEC and second-team All-American.
After: Coleman was selected in the second round of the 2000 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He would play five seasons for the Bucs and two for the Cleveland Browns to finish his career.
RT: Jarvis Reado
1998: Reado would have been the starting left tackle on most other teams had the Vols not had Clifton. Instead, Reado manned the right side of UT’s offensive line.
Me back in day. pic.twitter.com/csMhWjOf
— Jarvis Reado (@Big_Scoob72) February 16, 2012
After: According to his LinkedIn profile, Reado is a trustee in Knox County.
WR: Cedrick Wilson
1998: Wilson was an underrated receiver after he moved from quarterback, where he played in high school. Overlooking Wilson was understandable considering he was playing next to Peerless Price, who would go on to star in the NFL. Wilson also followed former UT standouts Marcus Nash and Joey Kent. However, Wilson was a master of getting in and out of his breaks at full speed.
After: After seven years in the NFL, Wilson became a high school coach. He was named the head coach at Hamilton High School in his hometown of Memphis in June.
WR: Peerless Price
1998: Price was the deep threat that the Vols needed to keep defenses honest in 1998. His chemistry with Martin was sublime on deep-passing routes.
After: Price played nine season in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons.
FB: Shawn Bryson
1998: Bryson, according to former UT head coach Phillip Fulmer, embodied the selflessness of the Vols in 1998. Bryson had the ability to play tailback but with a crowded backfield, he assumed the role of a consistent blocker and explosive runner at fullback.
After: Bryson immersed himself in coaching. He’s the head coach at Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School. He was recently selected to the National Football League Bill Walsh Diversity Fellowship Coaching Program.
RB: Jamal Lewis
1998: Lewis was the focal point of UT’s offense until he went down with a knee injury in the Auburn game that would end his season.
After: After returning from his knee injury, Lewis showed his freakish athletic ability was still intact during the 1999 season and in workouts for the NFL. He was picked fifth overall in the 1999 NFL Draft. Lewis ran for 10,607 yards during his NFL career, including 2,066 yards in 2003. He is currently the president of Southeast Exhibits and Metro Retail Solutions.
RB: Travis Henry
1998: Henry stepped in for Lewis and helped the Vols stay dominant in the running game. Henry’s hard, physical style wasn’t quite as explosive as Lewis but it punished defenses. The Vols barely missed a beat with Henry in the lineup.
After: Henry rushed for 6,086 yards for the Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos after being selected in the 2001 NFL Draft. After his career, he moved back to Florida.
DE: Shaun Ellis
1998: Nicknamed “Big Katt”, Ellis recorded 105 tackles and 12 ½ sacks during his career at UT. His incredible talent was probably a bit overlooked in college, as evident by what he did in the NFL.
After: Ellis went to the New York Jets with the 12th overall pick in 2000. He registered 73 ½ sacks in 12 seasons and was selected to the Pro Bowl twice.
DE: Corey Terry
1998: Terry was a quick-footed defensive end with good hands. That made him a perfect candidate to be an inside pass rusher.
After: Terry played two seasons in the NFL.
DT: Jeff Coleman
1998: Coleman was one of a handful of defensive tackles that stayed fresh by rotating in throughout UT’s 1998 championship run. The Vols’ usual starter, Coleman was suffering from cramps and was receiving an IV treatment when Billy Ratliff went in and caused Clint Stoerner to fumble, setting up the Vols’ winning drive against Arkansas.
After: Coleman currently works in corporate community outreach.
DT: Darwin Walker
1998: Known for his soft-spoken demeanor, Walker was one of the strongest Vols on the 1998 team. He was a nearly immovable force on the line of scrimmage. He was also pretty strong in the classroom. Walker graduated with a degree in engineering.
After: Walker was a third-round pick by the Arizona Cardinals before playing 10 years in the NFL for various teams. During his time in the NFL, he began his own engineering firm.
OLB: Eric Westmoreland
1998: Westmoreland was a steady force in UT’s linebacking corps with the ability to turn in fantastic plays when needed. He may have not been the consistent leader that Al Wilson was nor had as much athletic ability as Raynoch Thompson, but Westmoreland was a force to be reckoned with.
After: Westmoreland is currently an assistant coach at Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tenn. Westmoreland played four seasons in the NFL.
MLB: Al Wilson
1998: Wilson was the leader the Vols needed in 1998. He demanded hard work, did so himself and was the emotional force behind UT’s national title run.
After: Wilson is currently an investor in small businesses and lives in Atlanta.
CB: Dwayne Goodrich
1998: Goodrich will forever be known for his interception return for a touchdown in the Fiesta Bowl to help the Vols secure a national championship. His lockdown ability at cornerback was something the Vols could depend on all season.
After: Goodrich is living in Texas and is a “full-time dad” and a motivational speaker to college and high school football players.
CB: Steve Johnson
1998: Johnson’s late interception against Florida State put the game away in the Fiesta Bowl. Known for his speed, Johnson was an overlooked cog in the Vols’ defense because of all the defensive star power on the roster.
After: Johnson is the owner of Pizza Bar Camp Creek in Atlanta, Ga.
SS: Fred White
1998: White was the prototypical hard-hitting safety that symbolized UT’s toughness in 1998. Many forget he ran a 10.2-second time in the 100-meter dash in high school where he played cornerback. However, he was asked to add weight and play safety at UT. Willingly, he did so – and did so very well.
After: White works in pharmaceutical sales in Atlanta. He also appears frequently on various sports broadcasts across the southeast.
FS: Deon Grant
1998: Grant was the last line of UT’s defense for the Vols’ national title run. The rest of UT’s defense allowed Grant to roam the middle of the field like a center fielder in baseball. It was a perfect fit. Grant’s one-handed interception against Florida will forever be one of the season’s most memorable plays.
After: Grant played 12 seasons in the NFL, for the Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Seattle Seahawks before retiring as a New York Giant in 2011. It was a remarkable career considering Grant suffered what was described as a Bo Jackson-like hip injury during training camp before his rookie season.
PK: Jeff Hall
1998: Hall was as clutch as any kicker the Vols have had in recent history, especially against Syracuse and Florida. Hall’s consistency affected UT’s gameplans and in-game decisions. Most often, the Vols would play conservative thanks to special teams and a stout defense.
After: Hall is currently a financial advisor in Knoxville, according to his LinkedIn account.
P: David Leaverton
1998: Leaverton’s strong leg and consistency was a hallmark throughout the majority of his career. However, he’s long said he’s most proud of tackling Florida State star Peter Warrick in the openfield during the national championship game. Had Leaverton not made the tackle on the punt return, Warrick would have almost certainly scored. That could have drastically changed the course of the game.
After: “My wife and I quit our jobs, sold our house and are pouring our lives into a dream we have to see America become a nation united,” Leaverton wrote on his Linkedin page. Leaverton is currently the founder and president of Undivided Nation. Leaverton and his family of five packed in an RV on a 50-state tour to be “a catalyst for reconciliation and unity in America” via fundraising and community events.
Head coach: Phillip Fulmer
1998: After years of knocking on the door of a championship, Fulmer’s legacy was defined in 1998. Strong recruiting and a strong pair of coordinators, which Fulmer trusted, set the stage for the Vols – and Fulmer – to finally break through.
After: Fulmer returned to Tennessee as athletic director last offseason and hired Jeremy Pruitt to restore the Vols’ football program.
Offensive coordinator: David Cutcliffe
1998: Cutcliffe rebuilt the Vols offense after Peyton Manning’s departure but left for Ole Miss just before the national title game.
After: Cutcliffe was named Duke’s head coach in 2008 and is No. 3 on the Blue Devils’ all-time wins list (59).
Defensive coordinator: John Chavis
1998: Chavis did a masterful job of placing his players in the perfect position in 1998. With a team built on speed instead of size, Chavis used an aggressive scheme to consistently pressure opposing offenses.
After: After stints as a defensive coordinator at LSU and Texas A&M, Chavis joined Arkansas’ staff following the 2017 season.
NEXT: 13 things I learned about the 1998 national champions
1998 team photo courtesy of University of Tennessee Athletics