Alabama fan finds Tennessee signed football from 1970s in Florida thrift store

HUNTSVILLE - (USA TODAY) -- Jim Keller of Huntsville, Ala., is a University of Alabama graduate, proud member of the Class of 1979, and a Crimson Tide football zealot.

Now he owns a piece of Tennessee football history. And all it cost was $3.99.

While vacationing in Panama City, Fla., he and his wife, Beth, were taking a spin across the countryside last Saturday when a Goodwill store in Santa Rosa beckoned. 

On one side of the store, behind a rack of clothes sitting on a little table, was an autographed football, complete with orange and white panels. He was ready to buy it immediately, but chose to take a closer look. 

Keller found the names “Condredge Holloway” and “Bill Battle” on the ball, affixed with a ballpoint pen. After all, Holloway was from Huntsville and a couple of years older, and Battle was a former Alabama player as well as the school’s athletic director from 2013-17. 

That caught his attention. 

Football likely from 1972 Vols 

Being a college football fan who grew up in Homewood, a suburb of Birmingham, he instinctively knew he had found something real and worthwhile. 

His tab was $3.99 plus tax. For a brief moment, he wondered if the whole deal was legitimate, too good to be true. 

“There’s no doubt it’s real,” he said. “Look at the signatures. It would have taken a lot of trouble to fake it. I would’ve gone crazy had it been an Alabama ball.” 

The football, very likely autographed by Tennessee players and coaches before or during the 1972 season, had weathered the intervening years and any number of owners and locations where it might have been stored and/or displayed.

Keller wondered how and why the ball had ended up in a thrift store. As a fan, he knew what it might mean and how appreciated it would be in the right hands. After all, the 1972 Vols were on a roll, coming off a series of winning seasons starting in 1965, with big wins, national rankings, bowl games, and two SEC titles over that time frame. That team finished 10-2 and No. 8 nationally. 

Holloway and Eddie Brown were two of the nearly 40 players' names that were easily identifiable. Battle, who was the coach of the Vols, and assistants Gary Wyant, Bob Davis, Ray Trail, Jim Wright, Lide Huggins, Tim Priest, Wayne Stiles and Clifton Stewart were among the coaches. 

Keller, who said he enjoyed rummaging through “stuff” at estate and antique sales, was fascinated with his find, recalling that his college roommate had been from Clarksville. 

“I had always respected Tennessee,” he said. “They were always our biggest rival, sometimes even more than Auburn.” 

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