Hold Up, MLB Hall Of Famer Todd Helton Started Over Peyton Manning On Tennessee’s Football Team?

Todd Helton
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Yesterday was a big day for baseball fans as the MLB Hall of Fame class of 2024 was announced.

Todd Helton, Adrián Beltré, and Joe Mauer were the three players that met the 75% vote threshold and will be officially inducted into the Cooperstown Hall of Fame.

Naturally, following this process brought back a ton of memories and was the perfect opportunity to take a trip down memory lane, reliving some childhood moments that these three, and many others on the ballot, gave to kids like me that grew up obsessed with America’s pastime.

The number of times my brother and I imitated Gary Sheffield’s iconic batting stance truly must be in the tens of thousands.

But while going through countless YouTube videos and reading who knows how many articles, I stumbled upon a fact about Todd Helton that I never knew before and quite honestly it blew my mind.

As you can imagine, the hulking 6’2″, 210 pound Colorado Rockies first baseman was quite the athlete in high school and excelled at whatever sport he put his mind to.

Helton attended Knox Central High School in Tennessee and put up some mindboggling stats in both baseball and football, which lead to him being named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Tennessee for both sports, a very rare and impressive feat.

But if that wasn’t enough, Helton received a scholarship to the University of Tennessee to play both baseball and football. As you can imagine, he set quite a few records on the baseball diamond, and although he never really blossomed on the gridiron, there’s a part of his story that’s almost too good to be true.

As a freshman and sophomore, Helton was the backup quarterback to Heath Shuler and didn’t see much of the field. He remained the backup for his junior season in 1994 when Jerry Colquitt grabbed the starting role, but the third string quarterback that year was a freshman with a name you may recognize.

Yes, Peyton Manning was listed behind Todd Helton on the University of Tennessee’s depth chart for the 1994 season.

But it wasn’t just put in that order to honor some tradition of seniority.

Starter Jerry Colquitt got injured in the season opener against UCLA and Todd Helton trotted out on the field to take his place. He remained the starter for the next three games and even lead them to a win over #23 Georgia in his first career start.

Unfortunately, this story ends almost as quickly as it began. Helton blew out his knee during his third start against Mississippi State which forced baby-faced Peyton Manning into action.

Needless to say, he never gave the job back and the rest is history.

Helton ended his college football career with 484 yards, 4 touchdowns, and three interceptions.

Todd Helton will forever be remembered for what he did a baseball diamond, but let’s not forget that when the Volunteers starting quarterback got injured, head coach Phillip Fulmer turned around and saw Todd Helton and Peyton Manning standing there ready to go and he chose Helton ahead of the future NFL Hall of Famer.

That is a moment that deserves a little more shine, even as we celebrate Helton’s induction into the MLB Hall of Fame.

Below is the entirety of Helton’s first start for the Vols, but the video immediately goes into the backstory of how Todd Helton was getting the start, which is well worth the watch.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock