Bill Anderson, co-captain of Tennessee’s 1957 football team, who later played for the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl I and was the longtime football color analyst with John Ward on Vol Radio Network broadcasts for three decades, passed away Tuesday. Anderson, who lived in Knoxville, was 80-years-old.
“It is indeed a sad day for the University of Tennessee and the Vol Network with the passing of Bill Anderson,” UTAD Director of Broadcasting Bob Kesling said. “For three decades, Bill and John Ward painted the picture on the radio for many of the greatest moments in Tennessee football history. Bill’s great knowledge and understanding of the game and his passion for Tennessee football added so much to each broadcast.
“While in college at Tennessee, I got the great opportunity to work on the Vol Network. For 15 seasons I spotted for John Ward during the broadcasts. Sitting in the booth each Saturday I got to hear Bill talk about his playing days at Tennessee with Johnny Majors and Buddy Cruze. He told stories of his days in the NFL with the Washington Redskins, trying to block former Tennessee great and NFL Hall of Famer Doug Atkins and playing in the first Super Bowl game with the Green Bay Packers for coach Vince Lombardi.
“Bill enjoyed life, loved his family and took great pride in the fact he got to wear the orange shirt at Tennessee. It is a tremendous loss.”
Anderson was born in Hendersonville, North Carolina, and came to UT from Manatee High School in Bradenton, Florida. He played wingback/end at Tennessee under coach Bowden Wyatt from 1955-57 and was a member of Tennessee’s 1956 SEC Championship team that finished the season ranked No. 2 in the country. Tennessee amassed a record of 24-7-1 during his playing career and played in the Sugar and Gator bowls. As a standout end for the Vols, Anderson was selected to play in the 1958 Senior Bowl. He was selected in the third round of the 1958 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins and played in the nation's capital from 1958-63, earning All-Pro honors in 1959 and 1960. Anderson was the team’s Rookie of the Year in 1958 and its Player of the Year in 1959.
Anderson retired briefly from the NFL to become Tennessee's offensive ends coach in 1964 under first-year head coach Doug Dickey. He was coaxed back to the NFL, however, by legendary Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi the following that 1964 season. Anderson then played at Green Bay in 1965 and 1966. Both teams were NFL champions, and the 1966 squad became world champions by winning Super Bowl I.
Anderson totaled 178 receptions, 3,048 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns during his NFL playing career.
After retiring NFL, he returned to Tennessee and started a successful insurance company, and there is a bit of lore surrounding his appointment to the Vol Network broadcast team. In 1968, at Dickey’s and UT athletic director Bob Woodruff’s recommendation, Anderson was teamed with John Ward as the football analyst on the Vol Network. Earlier that year, Woodruff met briefly with Anderson to talk about the job, but nothing was offered and no decisions were made. Anderson had no broadcasting experience on any level, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to pursue the profession. He initially planned to turn down an offer, if one was extended, but he was later surprised to read in the newspaper that he and Ward would indeed be calling the games that fall.
Ward and Anderson’s first game together was the classic 1968 season-opener against Georgia on Tennessee’s new Tartan Turf. During 31 years together, the duo endeared themselves to Tennessee alumni and fans around the globe and earned a massive following. Their descriptive, colorful and entertaining calls turned Tennessee’s football broadcasts into a happening across the Volunteer State. Ward’s precise and descriptive delivery was complimented by Anderson’s uncanny knack of sniffing a play out before it happened. They were the nation’s longest-running college football tandem, and their final game together was Tennessee’s National Championship victory over Florida State in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl.
“The Vol Network and University of Tennessee fans have lost a family member and a giant of a man today in the passing of Bill Anderson,” IMG/Vol Network General Manager Steve Early said. “Bill was a Hall of Famer in every sense of the word. So many of us grew up hanging on his breakdown of what happened, and many times what was about to happen. He will be forever missed, and our thoughts and prayers are with his wonderful family.”
An avid golfer, Anderson was a member of both the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame. In 2013, he was recognized along with his former Green Bay teammates at Lambeau Field in a reunion of the 1965-67 NFL championship teams.
Funeral arrangements are pending.