Madison street named in honor of Vanderbilt football great Lonnie Sadler

Madison street named in honor of Vanderbilt football great Lonnie Sadler


Patricia Sadler admitted she will likely put some extra miles on her car over the next couple of weeks. After a street was named in honor of her late husband, Madison High and Vanderbilt football great Lonnie Sadler, on Wednesday, Patricia said she wants to see the sign as often as possible.

“I’ll probably swing by for the first couple of weeks every day,” Patricia Sadler said. “Just to take a look because I’m so excited and I’m so overjoyed. I still can’t believe this dream, this vision that (Lonnie Sadler’s Madison teammate) Mason Massey had in 2021 is now a reality.”

Lonnie Sadler, a running back and defensive back, became one of the the all-time leading high school rushers in Nashville in the 1970s and went on to become Vanderbilt’s first Black captain. On Monday, The Tennessean named Sadler to its All-Decade 1970s Midstate High School Football Team and in 2018 placed him on the 50 Greatest High School Football Players of All-Time from Nashville.

Sadler died in 2020 after being involved in an automobile accident. He was 67.

In 2021 Massey reached out to Metro Council Member Nancy VanReece, and they started the effort to name the street next to Madison Middle School (formerly Madison High School) and Stratton Elementary School, which runs into Old Hickory Boulevard, Lonnie Sadler Way. An unveiling ceremony took place Wednesday.

After his playing career, Sadler spent many years as a youth football coach in Madison, Inglewood and Hendersonville.

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His three sons — Lonnie Jr., Kenta and Jason Sadler — played football at Beech. Lonnie Jr. went on to play at Sewanee, Kenta at MTSU and Jason at Tennessee Tech.

“This means a lot,” Lonnie Sadler Jr. said. “To take the culmination of all the experiences and everything that my father accomplished and have him honored in this way is a big deal. Even with all that I experienced and learned throughout my life about my father, I’m still learning things today. He was a remarkable man.”

Lonnie Sadler Jr. said his father never pressured him to follow in his footsteps.

“He was my biggest inspiration, but it wasn’t in the way that I have to try to live up to my dad’s name,” Lonnie Sadler Jr. said. “It was just the lessons he taught me about being a man. About being a Black man: Never let that be a detriment to you, never use that as a crutch or an excuse. It was always about motivation and working hard and he always expressed the importance of getting a good education.”

Reach Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.