When Kolby Morgan made history by becoming the first football player from Scott County to see meaningful action in a University of Tennessee game on Saturday, there were more Oneida connections than one at play.
Morgan, who walked on at Tennessee after being named an all-state punter three years at Oneida, got an opportunity to play in Saturday’s game against Tennessee Tech in place of the injured Paxton Brooks. He wasn’t the only Oneida player in action on Saturday at Neyland Stadium, either. His former Oneida teammate, Hunter Barnhart, started at tight end for Tennessee Tech.
But when Morgan banged a booming, 55-yard punt to TTU’s 5-yard-line in the second quarter — and on each of his other three punts against the Golden Eagles — the man snapping the ball to him also has an Oneida connection.
Matthew Salansky is Tennessee’s long-snapper. The redshirt sophomore moved into the starting role as the Vols’ long-snapper last season, and has anchored that position ever since. And while Salansky played high school ball at Morristown West, his mother — Debbie Woods Salansky — is from Oneida.
Debbie Salansky graduated from Oneida High School before going on to the University of Tennessee. Her brothers are Sparky Woods and Don Woods. Those names are familiar to football fans. Don Woods — whose wife, Nancy, is the sister of Independent Herald founder Paul Roy — is a long-time and highly successful high school coach. And Sparky Woods is a former head coach in the SEC.
In fact, it was Sparky Woods’ South Carolina Gamecocks who ushered Johnny Majors out the door when they sprang a 24-23 upset over the Vols in a 1992 Halloween game. Majors was fired less than a week later.
Sparky Woods, who played quarterback at Oneida and still holds the school record for most interceptions in a season, dreamed of playing at the University of Tennessee. He didn’t get the chance, and instead attended Carson-Newman College, where he graduated in 1976. He is currently on Mack Brown’s staff at North Carolina.
While he didn’t realize his dream of playing at Tennessee, Sparky Woods’ son did. Casey Woods was a holder on special teams for the Vols in the mid 2000s. He is currently the tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator at Missouri.
The Woods siblings — Don, Sparky and Debbie — grew up across the street from Keith and Jared Henry in Oneida. Their parents were Onis and Christine Posey Woods. Onis Woods was a brother to the Rev. Ernest Woods. Both he and his wife are buried at Hazel Valley Memorial Cemetery.
It was after Onis’s death in 1991 that Christine Woods left Oneida, moving to Morristown where her son, Don, spent many years as football coach, and where her grandson, Matthew Salansky, graduated high school in 2019.
Salansky is the second member of the Woods family to play at the University of Tennessee. And, on Saturday, he was snapping the ball as Oneida’s Kolby Morgan boomed one of the longest punts a true freshman has ever had in Tennessee’s illustrious football history.
It truly is a small world.