Ron Widby, one of the greatest athletes in University of Tennessee history, died this week at the age of 75.
Widby is the only athlete in Tennessee's modern era to earn varsity letters in four sports, and nobody in university history has earned more than his eight varsity letters — three in football (1964-66), three in basketball (1965-67), one in baseball (1965) and one in golf (1966). During the 1966-67 school year, he was named an All-American punter for Doug Dickey's 1966 Gator Bowl champions before earning All-America honors and Southeastern Conference player of the year after starring on the court for Ray Mears.
Tennessee went 21-7 during the 1966-67 basketball season and won the SEC with a 15-3 mark, and Widby would finish his Volunteers hoops career with 1,432 career points and an average of 18.1 per game. On March 4, 1967, the 6-foot-4, 210-pounder racked up 50 points during an 87-60 rout of LSU in Stokely Athletics Center, which stood as a Tennessee single-game scoring record for nearly 20 years.
Widby averaged 42.3 yards per punt during his three-year Tennessee football career and averaged 43.8 yards as a senior in 1966, a clip that led the nation. He was selected in 1967 by the New Orleans Saints in the NFL draft, the New Orleans Buccaneers in the American Basketball Association draft and the Chicago Bulls in the NBA draft.
After playing one ABA season, Widby turned to football and would assemble a six-year playing career — four with the Dallas Cowboys (1968-71) and two with the Green Bay Packers (1972-73). During his time in Dallas, the Cowboys reached Super Bowl V, where they lost to the Baltimore Colts, and Super Bowl VI, where they beat the Miami Dolphins.
His final season in Dallas included not only a Super Bowl win but a Pro Bowl selection.
Widby played first base during his one season on Tennessee's baseball team and hit .300 with 17 RBIs in 24 games. He medaled in his first golf tournament with the Vols and nearly qualified for the Senior PGA Tour once his NFL days were over.
His versatility was memorably put on display Dec. 18, 1965, when he competed in the Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston and the Gulf South Classic tournament in Shreveport, Louisiana. The Volunteers defeated Tulsa on the field and Centenary on the floor.
Widby, who starred at Fulton High School in Knoxville before his years with the Vols, has been inducted to the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame (1990), the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame (1997) and the University of Tennessee Athletics Hall of Fame (2016).