EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first story in a series counting down the top five players in University of Tennessee football history. The Times Free Press previously published companion series on Alabama (May 4-8) and Georgia (May 11-15).
Before pressing send on that "You're a total buffoon" email, please allow an explanation as to why kicker Fuad Reveiz ranks among the top five players in Tennessee football history based strictly on their time in Knoxville.
For starters, the Volunteers have never skimped on special teams, from the tutelage of legendary George Cafego to Willie Gault's five career kickoff returns for touchdowns to the quartet of Colquitt punters — Craig, Jimmy, Dustin and Britton — who each spent time in the NFL. There is also the litany of kickers that includes the likes of Alan Duncan, John Becksvoort and Jeff Hall, but Reveiz was the best of the entire bunch.
As a sophomore in 1982, Reveiz made 27 of 31 field-goal attempts, with his 27 made tries in 11 regular-season games resulting in a Tennessee record that still remains and a Southeastern Conference standard that stood until 2003, when Georgia's Billy Bennett made 31 of 38 attempts in a 14-game season that included 12 regular-season contests, the SEC title game and the Capital One Bowl. The NCAA started including bowl statistics in 2002, but even that hasn't been able to erase what Reveiz accomplished.
Reveiz's brilliant sophomore season contained eight made kicks in 10 attempts from 50 yards or longer, with both his total and accuracy from that distance setting NCAA records that exist today. He became the first player in SEC history that same year to make a 60-yard field goal, performing the feat just before halftime at Georgia Tech.
"It would be a new Southeastern Conference record if he makes it," revered broadcaster John Ward said on the Vol Radio Network. "It's down. The kick is in the air. It's long enough. It is GOOD! A 60-yard field goal by Fuad Reveiz, and it was perfect between the uprights!"
Reveiz's kick would be matched two years later by Georgia's Kevin Butler, who drilled a 60-yarder at the final horn to propel the Bulldogs over Clemson. Butler and Reveiz benefited from kicking tees that were allowed by the NCAA in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, but each certainly justified having cannons for legs by spending more than a decade in the NFL.
As a senior in 1984, Reveiz made 20 of 23 attempts, including 18 straight at one point to set an SEC record for consecutive kicks in the same season that still stands. Georgia's Marshall Morgan holds the overall league mark for consecutive field goals, making 20 during the 2013 and '14 seasons.
Reveiz, who was born in Colombia and came to Knoxville from Miami, received All-SEC recognition in 1982 and 1984 and All-America honors in 1984, but the realization of his impact on the program increased in the years that followed.
When Reveiz was a freshman, Tennessee was coming off a 5-6 disappointment and had opened the 1981 season with humiliating losses to Georgia and Southern California by the combined score of 87-7. The heralded hiring of Johnny Majors was not going to plan, as the mastermind of Pittsburgh's 1976 national championship team was just 21-25-1 early in his fifth season in Knoxville.
There was even the slogan, "Bill Battle come back. We've made a Majors mistake."
The Vols regrouped to win eight of their last 10 games in 1981, capping the 8-4 season with a 28-21 topping of Wisconsin in the Garden State Bowl, but they were hardly dominant in doing so. Reveiz provided the difference in 10-7 wins over a mediocre Auburn and a woeful Georgia Tech, and his 29-yard field goal with 13 seconds left propelled Tennessee past Wichita State — a school that would drop its program five years later — 24-21 at homecoming.
What if Reveiz had missed a couple of those kicks, and a 7-4 season with a bowl invitation was instead 5-4-2 without one? Would Majors have been awarded a sixth season at Tennessee with his staff that included Phillip Fulmer as the offensive line coach?
It was the same story in 1982, when Tennessee's staff included a part-time offensive coach named David Cutcliffe — the same David Cutcliffe who would recruit and coach Peyton Manning more than a decade later. Reveiz made a 52-yard field goal early in the 1982 season to allow the Vols to escape Iowa State's upset bid 23-21, and his 52-yarder with 2:07 remaining at LSU enabled the Vols to register a surprising 24-24 tie against a Tigers team that reached the Orange Bowl.
The deadlock in Baton Rouge gave Tennessee some needed momentum entering the game that changed the trajectory of the Majors era — the 35-28 stunning of No. 2 Alabama that scissored an 11-game series losing streak and began a quarter-century run in which Tennessee went 14-10-1 in the rivalry (15-10 after NCAA sanctions resulted in the Crimson Tide forfeiting the 17-17 tie in 1993).
Tennessee's triumph over Alabama in 1982 may best be remembered for Mike Terry's late interception of Walter Lewis in the end zone, but Reveiz made four field goals that afternoon.
In the 20 years that followed Reveiz's time at Tennessee, the Vols posted 10 seasons of at least 10 victories, won five SEC championships and captured the 1998 national title. Tennessee's stability during that stretch ranked second to none within the league, and Reveiz's repeated efforts of bailing the Vols out Saturday after Saturday went a long way toward setting that foundation.
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