Hendon Hooker’s tremendous two-year run as Tennessee football’s quarterback came to a brutal end Saturday.
The senior suffered a torn ACL in his left knee, and he will miss the remainder of the season, Tennessee announced Sunday. Hooker’s Vols career is over, but not before he cemented himself among the program greats.
“Forever a Tennessee legend and the ultimate teammate, we know Hendon will come back stronger than ever as he embarks on a promising NFL career,” the UT announcement said.
Hooker, UT’s Heisman Trophy hopeful, went down with a noncontact leg injury in the fourth quarter of Tennessee’s 63-38 loss at South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium. His left leg buckled as he planted on an option play with 11:28 to play. He needed help getting off the field and limped to the UT locker room after being evaluated on the sideline.
Tennessee players were concerned and said they were praying for Hooker after the loss.
“It was probably one of the worst things I have seen out there,” offensive lineman Jerome Carvin said. “Just to know how hard he works. Probably the hardest-working guy I have ever played with. It is so unfortunate for it to happen to a guy like that. If I know anything, I know he will bounce back from it for sure. He is a warrior. I know he will.”
Hooker put himself in the picture for national awards and catapulted Tennessee into the College Football Playoff conversation with a stellar senior season. He completed 69.6% of his passes for 3,153 yards and 27 touchdowns with two interceptions, leading UT to a 9-1 start with the program’s best start since 1998 first win over Alabama since 2006.
The Greensboro, North Carolina, native transferred to Tennessee in January 2021 after starting his career at Virginia Tech. He committed to ex-Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt, then stuck through the transition into the Josh Heupel era. The pair proved a perfect marriage and have revived the struggling Tennessee program.
Hooker lost the starting quarterback job to Joe Milton before the 2021 season, but took over midway through the second game and held onto the spot for the past 22 games. He threw for 6,080 yards and 58 touchdowns with only five interceptions over that span. He also rushed for 1,050 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Hooker was 25-for-42 passing for 247 yards and three touchdowns at South Carolina before he was injured. He was running left on an option when he suffered the injury.
“That is our brother,” tight end Princeton Fant said after the game. “That is our quarterback. That is somebody we all believe in with this offense. He is in our prayers tonight. We are praying for him.”
The play was ruled a fumble after review as Hooker had dropped the ball as he went down. South Carolina took over with the ball at the UT 17-yard line while leading 49-31. The Gamecocks scored again to take a 56-31 lead. Milton entered at quarterback on the next UT drive.
Milton, a senior, finished 4-for-8 passing for 108 yards and a touchdown, a 21-yard pass to Cedric Tillman. Milton will likely start for UT in its regular-season finale at Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.