Any great sports debate begins with a difference of opinion. Athletes from the current generation are compared with those who played before them, and fans take sides on who is the best they've ever seen play. With that in mind, leading up to the start of another football season, the Times Free Press sports staff is releasing lists of 13 for 2013.
Appearing in the Tuesday and Friday editions each week, they list alphabetically the top 13 area players at each position, and readers can cast their votes to rank those players.
So who have been the area's best players at each position? You help us decide. Taking into account not only their prep careers but also college and any professional achievements, we bring you wide receivers and tight ends today.
Tim Benford (Red Bank, Tennessee Tech, NFL) -- He was a three-year starter at Red Bank and set school records his senior season with 62 catches, 1,143 yards and 17 touchdowns. He was a two-time all-state selection. At Tennessee Tech, he was named Ohio Valley Conference newcomer of the year and later OVC player of the year. He is Tech's career leader in touchdowns (27) and receptions (216) and holds numerous single-season records. He is currently on the Dallas Cowboys' roster.
Adarius Bowman (Notre Dame HS, North Carolina, Oklahoma State, CFL) -- In high school he was rated the top receiver in the state and was a U.S. Army All-American. He signed originally with UNC and transferred to Oklahoma State, where he set a Big 12 single-game record with 13 catches for 300 yards and four TDs. He has enjoyed a fruitful career in the Canadian Football League, most recently with the Edmonton Eskimos.
Joel Bradford (McCallie, UTC) -- He was a 2010 All-American at UTC and set a school record that year as a junior with 1,284 receiving yards. He also holds the two highest single-game receiving totals with 274 and 154 yards and is among the school's top 10 all-time in career receiving yards, receptions and touchdown catches.
Kris Durham (Calhoun, Georgia, NFL) -- The 6-foot-5 two-time all-state performer had 1,900 yards and 23 touchdowns in his final two prep seasons and was named Georgia's defensive player of the year as a senior after intercepting seven passes. He had 659 yards on 32 receptions as a senior at Georgia before being drafted in the fourth round by the NFL's Seattle Seahawks. He now plays for Detroit with former UGA roommate Matthew Stafford .
Anthony Jones (Tyner, Vanderbilt) -- An outstanding two-way player for Wayne Turner at Tyner, he made Best of Preps and all-state teams before moving on to Vanderbilt. He earned a varsity letter in 1998 and had one 100-yard receiving game for the Commodores, against Duke.
Mike Jones (Riverside, Tennessee State, NFL) -- Still a record-holder at TSU, Jones became the OVC team's offensive coordinator in 2010. He was a two-time All-American for the Tigers and went to the Minnesota Vikings in the sixth round of the 1983 NFL draft. He played three seasons for the Vikings and three for the New Orleans Saints. He also served NFL Europe as a head coach (Frankfurt Galaxy) and won a championship and was the league's coach of the year in 2006.
Tom Mullady (McCallie, Southwestern/Rhodes, NFL) -- Known as an aggressive tight end with superior blocking ability, he went to Rhodes College in Memphis and from there to the NFL. He was drafted by Buffalo but wound up playing most of his career with the New York Giants.
Dee Mostiller (City, Middle Tennessee State) -- He once held the career receiving record at MTSU with 2,195 yards, including 244 against UT-Martin in 1995.
Stephaun Raines (Dalton, Tennessee) -- After a great two years for the Catamounts, Raines headed for UT but lasted only briefly, winding up on defense and recording 10 tackles in 2009. As a running back and receiver at Dalton, Raines had 1,602 yards and 15 TDs as a senior and 1,099 combined yards with eight touchdowns as a junior.
Da'Rick Rogers (Calhoun, Tennessee/Tennessee Tech, NFL) -- He set a state high school record for receiving yards and TDs and was a Parade and UnderArmour All- American. He had a troubled college career before being dismissed at UT and then finishing his career at Tennessee Tech. He signed with the Buffalo Bills as a free agent and is listed on their 2013 roster.
Cory Simpson (Red Bank, Middle Tennessee State, NFL) -- He held the city's single-season receiving record for many years with 915 yards and signed a free-agent contract with Tampa Bay. He now is an assistant on Ralph Potter's McCallie staff.
Seth Skogen (Tennessee Temple) -- One of the area's most accomplished receivers, Skogen still holds Chattanooga city records. He is the receiving leader in career yards (4,935), single-season yards (2,047) and single-game yards (311).
Kenny Smith (North Jackson, Tennessee) -- He was a consensus prep All-American who caught six touchdown passes as a senior. He also had 22 career sacks as a defensive end.
Tom Mullady was good enough to make the all-state team as a tight end, but he wasn't big enough to interest recruiters from the big-time college football programs.
So he went to Rhodes College, back then known as Southwestern, a Division III member of the NCAA and a school that first perused academic background and then athletic ability.
And Mullady, who played at McCallie for Pete Potter, blossomed.
"Actually, when he was a senior he was still sort of a skinny kid. He didn't really blossom until he got to [Rhodes]," former Potter assistant and ex-McCallie athletic director Bill Cherry said. "He was a good all-around player for us, but I never dreamed at the time that he would wind up in the NFL."
By the time he arrived at Rhodes in August 1975, Mullady had begun to mature. Teammates looked at his 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame and thought he was an offensive tackle.
In his Rhodes Hall of Fame bio, Mullady is described as a player who "defined the position of tight end for Rhodes."
He was part of an explosive offense at the Memphis school, setting single-game records in 1978 for receptions (13) and yards (267) and finishing the year as the nation's most productive DIII tight end (5.5 receptions per game).
"The Rhodes teams were a similar experience to the McCallie teams," said Mullady, now an executive with Federal Express. "I was very fortunate to be on some good McCallie teams that went deep into the playoffs, and one of those Rhodes teams still has the school's all-time winningest record. We had some great receivers, and it made it easy for the tight end to work the middle."
Mullady was more of a blocking tight end at McCallie -- playing for run-oriented Potter.
"He was a heck of an offensive blocker at tight end, but he also played defensive end," Cherry said. "He was a tough kid, and what he might've lacked in strength he made up for with technique and quickness. And he was very quiet but a good leader."
What Mullady remembers most about McCallie football are Potter -- "He taught me the game, and he made an immediate impact on me" -- and his teammates and a playoff win over the Blue Tornado's chief rival.
"We had some very talented teams with some exceptional players," he said. "As games go, though, the one I remember was a playoff game with Baylor. They ran us off the field during the regular season, and Coach Potter said immediately after that game that we could play them again if we win out. We did and we beat them in the playoffs.
"Football for me was a terrific experience."
From Rhodes, Mullady went to the Buffalo Bills, a seventh-round draft pick by then-coach Chuck Knox. He was released in the final round of cuts and took a job at Lookout Sporting Goods while hoping for calls from NFL clubs. The Jets brought him in for a tryout and the 49ers called also. Shortly after, though, he was signed by the New York Giants and played tight end, at better than 230 pounds, for them from 1979 to '84.
While with the Giants he played for both Ray Perkins and Bill Parcells.
"They had a number of losing seasons, and then we made the playoffs for the first time in 18 years," Mullady said. "I feel very fortunate to have been part of that thread in their on-field success."
Contact Ward Gossett at email@example.com or 423-886-4765.