No one in orange, however, influences the outcome of a Tennessee game more than the quarterback. Manning and Martin became good friends during their two years together, but they are strikingly different in background and style. Manning came from privilege, Martin from unspeakable hardship. It has been widely chronicled that Martin and his mother, Marie, moved in and around Mobile 22 times in 18 years. "To tell you the truth," Tee said last week, "it might have been 23 or 24. I'm not even sure." Martin also lost several friends to violent crime. A high school buddy named Gary Simmons was gunned down outside a friend's house and died in Tee's arms. "He was shot all over his body," says Martin. "I remember I had an appointment with a recruiter from Alabama that same night." Such were the conflicting currents in his life.
Like so many others in similar circumstances, Martin survived with the help of sports. Like far fewer, he also cultivated an infectious charm that rubs off instantly on teammates. He shares few of Manning's on-field gifts but has some of his own. "Tee's ball buzzes into your hands," says Price. "Peyton's was softer. Tee makes my fingers hurt. Peyton would yell at you in the huddle, get right in your face. Tee is a little more supportive, pumping you up." Manning ran only in desperation or on the occasional blind bootleg. Martin is a threat to scramble anytime. In his endless film work Manning concentrated mostly on pass coverages. Martin studies the opponent's line, to assess the run defense.
After home games the autograph and interview crush on Manning was so sufffocating that he would be ushered out a special side exit from the locker room and driven by golf cart to a distant parking lot, where he could tailgate in peace with his family. Ninety minutes after Saturday's victory, Martin wandered around a cavernous parking garage adjacent to the stadium before finally stumbling upon his car. "Got a little lost there," he said sheepishly.
To calm himself before Saturday's game, Martin talked to Marie, who told him, "Just play like it's Blount High," referring to the fierce rival of Tee's Williamson High in Mobile. Martin's statistics against Florida were unimpressive, but as in the 34-33 win over Syracuse two weeks earlier, he made plays at opportune times and did nothing to lose the game. His most telling moment came in the Volunteers' first overtime possession. After Tennessee started at the 25-yard line, two incomplete passes to the end zone and a holding penalty left it facing third-and-23 from the 38. The Vols called timeout, and Martin huddled on the sideline with assistant coach Randy Sanders. "Go through your reads and, if nothing's there, get us in position for a field goal," Sanders told Martin, relaying Cutcliffe's message from the coaches' box.
It was much to ask of a quarterback making his first start in the emotional cauldron that is Neyland Stadium, but Martin followed the instructions perfectly. When Florida dropped back into pass coverage, Martin scrambled 14 yards up the middle, leaving Hall with a very makable kick, when an incompletion would have left him with a 55-yard attempt.
Now it was up to Hall, a fourth-year senior who twice before in his career had won games with field goals, including this year's opener at Syracuse. From the age of nine Hall had two dreams: "To be a kicker," he says, "and to play for the Volunteers." His father, a former high school football player with the melodious, SEC-ready name of Billy Wayne Hall, and his mother, Paula, attended Franklin County High with Fulmer in Winchester, Tenn. Billy Wayne indulged his son's dreams by serving as the holder while Jeff kicked off a wooden block through two maple trees in the family's backyard. When Jeff turned 10, Billy Wayne bought him a kicking tee. "Jan Stenerud model," says Jeff, "with an instruction book." Jeff attended what seemed like every kicking camp in North America. His heroes, bless his heart, were Jason Elam and Al Del Greco.
In dense humidity, with light raindrops falling, Hall walked through his mechanical routine as the teams lined up for the attempt. "Four steps back, two steps to the left, look up once at the goalpost," he says. "Then I don't think about anything, because thought clutters the routine." It was long past midnight as he recounted his story for the first of what will be many times in the coming years. The moment will never need embellishing. "The tee and the book cost about five dollars, I think," Hall says.
The state of Tennessee would agree: good investment.