1949 - 61 Volunteers
(Authentic Reproduction)




Tennessee football was both defined by and in a sense, spoiled by Robert Neyland, one of the all-time greats of college football coaching. "The Titan of Tennessee", a College Football Hall Of Fame member, posted a 173-31-12 record in a twenty-one year coaching reign that spanned twenty-seven years as it was twice interrupted for military service. He played at Texas A&M and Army, served in World War I, then at West Point, worked directly for General Douglas MacArthur. Neyland eventually retired from the Army as a Brigadier General but served in Panama and in WW II which interrupted his UT coaching career. His unbelievable success put Tennessee football and his version of the Single Wing on the map, earning respect for southern football. He served to spoil fans and boosters with his .829 winning percentage and National Championships of 1938 and '51. In one six-year period he went 53-1-5! After his retirement to the full-time athletic director's position in 1952, every coach at UT was held to his standard. His final stint at UT spanned the years of 1946 through '52. He inherited successful teams coached by John Barnhill who "kept the throne warm" for The General while he served during WW II. Barnhill was a former player and current assistant to Neyland when military duty called and upon Neyland's return in '46, Barnhill's UT success brought him the head coaching job at Arkansas, one he kept for eight years until giving it over to former Tennessee star, assistant coach, and future head Volunteer mentor, Bowden Wyatt. Neyland of course, took Barnhill's team to the next level, bringing the 1946 squad to the Orange Bowl. After a two-year rebuilding effort, the 1949 team finished with a 7-2-1 mark and also ushered in the suspension helmet era at UT as they donned white Riddell RT shells with a one-inch orange center stripe, a design that would be the UT standard until the end of the 1961 season. Soph TB Hank Lauricella out of New Orleans was a star in the making and end Bud Sherrod was All SEC with guard Ted Daffner a second team All Conference choice. The 1950 team dropped a 7-0 decision to Mississippi State in the season's second game, the only blemish on an 11-1 year which included a 28-14 victory over Texas in the Cotton Bowl. The team was loaded with All American end Bud Sherrod while Daffner moved up to first-team All SEC and also received All America mention. Lauricella and FB Andy Kozar ran well behind the forward wall which included T Bill Pearman, G John Michels, Sherrod, Daffner, and soph tackle Doug Atkins, an All State basketball player who led his high school team to forty-four straight wins. Neyland grabbed him off the hardcourt to utilize his 6'8" package of muscle. Neyland brought it all together in '51, storming through the schedule at 10-0 with All American HB Lauricella piling up yardage before going to the NFL Dallas Texans. Kozar, and WB Bert Rechichar (ten pro seasons, four teams primarily with the Colts, and four positions including doing the place-kicking for the Colts in the famous 1958 NFL Championship game) operated behind a punishing forward wall. The line included All American guard Daffner (Bears), All SEC guard Michels, and All SEC tackle Bill "Pug" Pearman. End Atkins developed into an All SEC tackle, an absolute terror on defense. College Football Hall Of Fame member Lauricella finished second in the Heisman voting to Princeton's Dick Kazmaier and the team was named National Champion but unfortunately fell to a powerhouse Maryland team in the Sugar Bowl by 28-13. With a multitude of graduation losses, the Vols took the field in '52 with Jimmy Wade at TB and Andy Kozar at FB. Against Alabama they teamed for 277 rushing yards of the 377 put on the Tide that day. 8-1-1 was great considering the re-building status of the squad and Atkins earned consensus All America notice as UT led the nation in defense. He became the Browns number-one draft choice and was so dominant that he is one of the few players in both the College and Pro Football Halls Of Fame, starring at DE for seventeen pro seasons, primarily with the Bears. Guard Michels was no slouch, also earning All American status, and the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the best in the SEC. Michels had one year with the Eagles and then coached in the CFL and was the Vikings O-line coach from 1968 through '93. He is also a member of the College Football Hall Of Fame.

Doug Atkins came out of Humboldt, Tennessee as the state's premiere basketball player, a dominating center who led his high school team to forty-four consecutive wins. As a scholarship player at Tennessee, Head Coach General Bob Neyland made it clear that the 6'8", tremendously strong Atkins, would use his talents on the gridiron. An immediate starter his soph season on UT's 11-1 squad, he developed into an All SEC defensive tackle for his junior year, helping to lead the team to the 1951 National Championship. Tennessee's defense was number-one against the pass primarily due to Atkin's furious rush, one that often featured his patented leap-frog move over opposing linemen. An All American as a senior, Atkins was the leader of the nation's best defense and so dominant, he was named the SEC Player Of The Quarter Century (1950-1974). He could look back on a record of 29-4-1 during his varsity days as he moved on first, to the UT track and field season where he won the SEC high jump title, and then to pro football as the Cleveland Browns number-one draft choice. He was traded to the Chicago Bears amid rumors that Cleveland coach Paul Brown could not control him and he became the four-time All Pro anchor of the Bears' stifling defense. Big Doug completed his pro career with the expansion New Orleans Saints, playing great ball and lending leadership to the young team. After seventeen years, Atkins retired and was named to both the College and Pro Football Halls Of Fame. Stories about his prodigious strength and rebellious behavior fill locker rooms even to the present day and he remains one of Tennessee's all-time greats.   
During the 1952 season, doctors had recommended that Neyland step down from active coaching due to health concerns and he made the announcement that he would retire as coach and remain as AD on Christmas Eve, naming first-assistant Harvey Robinson as the new mentor for '53. The successful 8-1-1 year finished with a Cotton Bowl loss to Texas with Robinson at the helm but the Vols still finished at number eight in the country. It was the end of an era in Tennessee football.
Former Vol tailback and Assistant Head Coach Harvey Robinson received the opportunity to follow Neyland as UT's next head coach. It has often been said that one doesn't want to be "the man that follows The Man, but rather, the man who follows the man who follows The Man!" and in this case, it was true. For the 1953 season, Robinson also had to deal with a change from two-platoon football back to one-platoon due to war time manpower shortages. The great players of '51 and '52 were gone, either to the pros or to the military service thus, with limited talent, Robinson had the task of teaching a second position to many who were barely good enough to play on one side of the football. The 6-4-1 season was saved by a four-game win streak in the middle of the schedule but they were inconsistent and at times, horrid. Tom "The Bomb" Tracy was a powerful FB, rushing behind C Lamar Leachman who later became a long-time NFL assistant.  In '54, soph Johnny Majors was an immediate hit as a triple-threat tailback in the Single-Wing offense made famous by Neyland. Tracy held up well at FB but Majors missed key playing time with injuries, his enormous potential obvious. Inconsistent play, literally alternating wins and losses week by week until dropping the final four games to finish 4-6, was maddening to the fans and made worse by ultra-conservative football. Captain and All SEC tackle Darris McCord who went on to a fine thirteen year career with his hometown Lions as a two-way tackle and DE, won the coin toss in all ten games and under Robinson's orders, chose to kickoff each time, a ploy perhaps acceptable when winning but never when losing, in that era. Despite fine play from Tracy, Majors, McCord  and guard Charley Coffey who went on to become a Frank Broyles assistant and the head coach at Virginia Tech, the squad posted UT's worst season in thirty years. Though capable, the fans were spoiled by the incredible run of success the Vols had enjoyed and too impatient to wait for change. AD Neyland dismissed Robinson and the entire staff on December 1, 1954, the first time this type of firing had occurred within the Knoxville program. Robinson headed to Florida to assist Bob Woodruff and six years later returned as a Vols' assistant to Bowden Wyatt, the man who had succeeded him. The Most Improved Offensive Player on the Tennessee squad each spring wins The Harvey Robinson Award.
Former UT All American end Bowden Wyatt who had turned around the fortunes of Wyoming, at one point winning twenty-seven of thirty games, and then guided a down-trodden Arkansas to the Cotton Bowl in only his second year at the helm there, was rumored to be the incoming new Vols coach which predictably, contributed to the Hogs' loss to Georgia Tech in their bowl game. On January 8, 1955 Wyatt was officially named and drove into Knoxville in a brand-new Cadillac that had been purchased by appreciative Razorback fans after clinching the Cotton Bowl berth. Using the same fundamental football he learned from General Neyland, Wyatt was tireless and dynamic in teaching the Tennessee Single-Wing which featured "fierce blocking and sound defense." Wyatt's first team featured John Gordy at tackle, Charley Coffey at guard, and Johnny Majors at tailback. Majors' 1133 total yards made him the SEC MVP. Some felt that the 6-3-1 record would have improved if solid FB Tom Tracy had not had a personal falling-out with Wyatt which led him to quit the squad during spring ball. Tracy still went on to a productive nine-year NFL career with Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Washington.
A defensive stand-off that featured a lot of punting and strategy was the 1956 season's highlighted game, a 6-0 win over powerful Georgia Tech in the seventh game of the year that spurred the Vols on to an undefeated season. All SEC T Gordy led the way for Majors and wingback Bill Anderson before the big lineman left to play for the Lions for eleven good years. Majors finished with 1101 yards, consensus All American ranking and finished second in the Heisman voting, an honor many experts believe he should have won. Once again his ability to run, pass, block and perform as one of the best punters in the nation gave him the SEC MVP for the second straight year and he was named as UPI's National Back Of The Year. E Buddy Cruze was also All American and Wyatt was National Coach Of The Year for guiding his Vols to a number-two national ranking. The season ended on a down note as the mighty Vols lost a mistake-ridden Sugar Bowl game 13-7 to Baylor, the game marred when Vol guard Bruce Burnham was kicked by Baylor's Larry Hickman after a play with Burnham going into convulsions. What was believed to possibly be a broken neck proved to be but a minor injury but the myth of an "unbeatable Tennessee team" had been exploded.
Coming from one of the "first families of football" in the state of Tennessee, one that delivered three siblings to Tennessee, one to Florida State, and another to Sewanee, Johnny Majors lived up to any and all prior billing when he stepped onto the field as a Vols varsity player. With his father Shirley Majors as his high school coach at Huntland H.S. in Franklin County, TN, he led his team to the 1951 state championship and scored a career total of 565 points. Majors was a natural as a do-it-all tailback in the Tennessee Single Wing. He was the Southeastern Conference MVP in both his junior and senior seasons, and a consensus All American and UPI National Back Of The Year in his college finale. He came in second to Paul Hornung in the'56 Heisman balloting, a vote most experts believed he should have won. He ran, passed, blocked, punted, and played defense better than anyone else in the nation! After a one-year stint with Montreal in the CFL, he turned to coaching as an assistant at Mississippi State and then at Arkansas. He was the successful head coach at Iowa State and then Pitt where he not only turned around sagging programs, but brought Pitt into the winner's circle where he was two-time National College Coach Of The Year, winning the National Championship in 1976. From 1977 to 1991, he was the head coach at Tennessee and won three SEC Championships, coming close to gaining the National title in 1989 with his 11-1 squad. In 1992 Majors had a serious heart attack and the team was directed by his offensive coordinator and former UT guard Phillip Fulmer whose ascension to the head post brought a great deal of controversy at the time. Majors moved on to Pitt for a second go-around that was not as successful and he retired after the 1996 season. A street that runs through the athletic complex area on the UT campus is named after Majors and his cousin, Lee Majors, was a long-time Hollywood actor. 
Graduation losses were expected to hurt the 1957 team but it did well after dropping the opener to eventual National Champion Auburn 7-0. Hitting a tough two-game losing streak toward the end of the season left the Vols at 7-3 and a Gator Bowl date with Bear Bryant's final Texas A&M squad and they won 3-0 on a late field goal to finish 8-3. All SEC TB Bobby Gordon was talented in the Majors' mold, although not a Majors and FB Tom Bronson, a three-year starter, was a great blocker. WB Bill Anderson became the focal point of the attack and was named All American before going on to the Redskins and Packers from 1958-'66 as a WR and TE. All Conference guard Bill Johnson was the muscle up front on both sides of the ball. In the seventh game of the season, history was made as UT for the first time ever ran plays out of the T-Formation against Georgia Tech. Cooked up by Gordon and his roommate center Dave Stottlemyer who had practiced the close exchange in their dorm room, the three-play ploy was meant to protect the ball as the Vols tried to safely move from their own two-yard line after stopping Tech's drive. Wyatt was perhaps more surprised than anyone else in the stadium! Of '58 and '59, it was stated that "Vol fans, never knowing what to expect next, found themselves laughing one Saturday and crying seven days later." The 4-6 '58 squad was the first SEC team to lose to Florida State and played against Auburn on national television, failing to gain even one first down and finishing with minus yardage. It somehow lost to Chattanooga yet came back one week later to defeat Ole Miss whose only other loss of the season was to National Champion LSU. The Chattanooga University upset-victory, in Knoxville, led to a near-riot as their fans tore down the goalposts and fought with both Vols' fans and police. While TB's Bill Majors and Gene Etter developed, many fans were glad to see the 4-6 season end. The 5-4-1 mark of '59 was just as frustrating as UT dropped the final three contests, scoring but seven points total with two shutouts against their offense, yet defeated powerful LSU and Billy Cannon 14-13 before the downward spiral. Ole Miss won by scoring twenty-seven points in the second half and the Vols lost to Vandy on their own field.  The grumbling was getting louder. All SEC tackle Joe Schaffer out of Cincinnati's Elder H.S. managed a year with the inaugural AFL Buffalo team and the backfield boasted Bill Majors, Gene Etter, and soph Glenn Glass.
The undefeated team of '56 and Gator Bowl team of '57 had faded into mediocrity amidst high hopes. Wyatt wanted "boys who have Orange in their blood" but there weren't enough in-state who could play SEC football and it was showing. 6-2-2 with a big win over improved Alabama was tempered by late season losses that kept them in the middle of the pack for 1960. TB Glenn Glass was the key, running behind the Jacobs Blocking Trophy winner FB Jim Cartwright and Second Team All SEC center Mike Lucci, a Pennsylvanian who had transferred from Pitt and who was best on defense. He was drafted after the season as a future by the Browns. With some good sophs like tackles Dick Evey and Memphis Catholic H.S.'s Whit Canale joining his brother HB George Canale (a third brother, Justin, played at Mississippi State and then in the NFL), hopes were high for '61 but faded to a 6-4 mark. TB Glass shared the spotlight with soph Mallon Faircloth, then went on to a few years with three NFL teams and Lucci was outstanding as the SEC center, becoming the first of the heralded UT linebackers and then had a very successful twelve-year pro career, the last nine as a Lion with some All Pro honors.

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