Hendon Hooker is a welcome sight for Tennessee Vols fans after watching the program struggle to find consistent quarterback play over the last several years.

Tennessee hasn’t had above-average play from the quarterback position since Josh Dobbs left Knoxville after the 2016 season.

Hooker, however, is playing at an elite level in his first season on Rocky Top.

In nine games this season, Hooker has passed for 1,894 yards, 21 touchdowns, and only two interceptions (and he only has seven starts this season after not starting the first two games of the season).

That’s an incredibly efficient stat line.

What makes it even more impressive, though, is that Hooker thought his football career was over at one point in 2020 while he was at Virginia Tech.

Hooker, a Greensboro, NC Native, contracted COVID-19 early in the 2020 season. He went through the normal protocols and had to go for some check-ups after his quarantine was over.

Doctors found some issues with his heart that led to open-heart surgery being discussed — a procedure that would’ve ended Hooker’s career.

Hooker detailed the scary ordeal during an SEC Network segment that was filmed earlier this week.

Fortunately for Hooker, doctors were able to get his heart issue under control without surgery. Hooker returned to the field for the Hokies last season and eventually decided to transfer to Tennessee.

And Vol fans are certainly glad he did.

Hooker didn’t win the starting job out of camp, but he never let that get him down. He kept preparing as if he was the starter. He was the definition of a team player while waiting his turn, which came in the second game of the season, against Pittsburgh, when starter Joe Milton was injured.

“The biggest testament I can say about him (Hooker) is when he didn’t earn the job coming out of camp, you would have never known it,” said Vols quarterback coach Joey Halzle during an appearance at the Knoxville quarterback club last week. “He showed up, the first one to meetings every day, still taking amazing notes, still being the guy that asked all the questions. Wanted to know exactly what to do. When he got his opportunity, he stepped in there and never looked back.”

Hooker wasn’t supposed to be one of the best quarterbacks in the nation this year. He almost wasn’t even supposed to return to playing football.

This should be the biggest story in college football. Hendon Hooker is a special player that has helped insert a burst of energy into Tennessee football.

Featured image via Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports