Vols Mourn Passing of Six-Time Letterman & Dual-Sport Star Herky Payne

Herky Payne / UT Athletics

Harold “Herky” Payne, a two-sport standout for the Volunteers in the early 1950s, passed away Tuesday in Knoxville. At 92 years old, he was one of Tennessee’s oldest living lettermen.

A native of Pensacola, Florida, Payne lettered three years with the football team (1949-51) and three years with the baseball program (1950-52). He earned two degrees from Tennessee, served two years in the U.S. Army and was selected to the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.

As a tailback on Tennessee’s 1951 football national championship team, coached by Gen. Robert R. Neyland, Payne scored 14 touchdowns and led the Southeastern Conference in scoring with 84 points. At that time, he was the second Vol ever to lead the league in scoring, joining 1933 scoring champion Beattie Feathers.

Payne was named third-team All-SEC by both the Associated Press and UPI following that 1951 campaign. His career totals on the gridiron included 23 touchdowns and 1,145 rushing yards.

His 90-yard punt return for a touchdown against Duke on Oct. 1, 1949, stands as the second-longest punt return in school history.

Payne also starred as a second baseman on Tennessee’s 1951 SEC champion baseball squad that posted a 20-3 (16-1 SEC) record and advanced to the College World Series championship game, where it fell to Oklahoma by one run, 3-2. He batted .354 that season and hit for a .333 average in 1952.

Following his multi-sport career at Tennessee, Payne was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the ninth round of the 1952 NFL Draft. He ended up playing professional baseball briefly in Florida before returning to East Tennessee.

Payne earned both a bachelor’s (1953) and master’s (1975) degree from UT’s College of Business.

At the time of his passing, Payne was believed to be Tennessee’s sixth-oldest living letterman. He is one of only 32 Vols in the modern era (1933 to present) known to have earned at least six varsity letters.

-UT Athletics