Johnny Majors speaks at Little Rock Touchdown Club (Part 11)jh79

Interview with Johnny Majors after 1982 Kentucky game

Below is a picture of Lane Kiffin with Johnny Majors.

Image Detail

I enjoyed hearing Johnny Majors speak at the Little Rock Touchdown Club on 11-7-11. He talked a lot about the connection between the Arkansas and Tennessee football programs. It reminded me of what Frank Broyles had said two years earlier when I heard him speak. Broyles told a very interesting story that involved individuals that were involved with the UT football program. John Barnhill was the Athletic Director at Arkansas (former football coach of UT) and he hired a former UT player Bowden Wyatt to be the head football coach at Arkansas (future football coach of great UT team of 1956 with Johnny Majors at QB). John Barnhill noticed that in south Arkansas the radio stations were carrying the LSU football games and in the East part of Arkansas the radio stations were carrying Ole Miss and in the west they were carrying Oklahoma. Therefore, John Barnhill offerred all the radio staions in the whole state free access to the radio broadcast of the Razorbacks and the result was all the stations in the whole state carried the Razorbacks and Bowden Wyatt benefitted from the great increase in school spirit and support and a young Frank Broyles saw this great support in all the store windows of every store and every city in Arkansas had all this great support for the Razorbacks and Frank had never seen that at Baylor or Georgia Tech or any other school he had been around and he decided he would take the job as soon as it came open. Bowden Wyatt coached the first razorback team that got national attention but he left after getting the razorbacks to the cotton bowl and got a cadillac from the grateful fans of Arkansas and drove it straight to Knoxville where my Uncle Blythe told me that he used the talent left there and drank himself out of a job later.

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray warms up with the team before the game against Arkansas at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville on Nov. 12, 2011. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess, ©KNS/2011

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray warms up with the team before the game against Arkansas at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville on Nov. 12, 2011. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

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 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.

Tennessee wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers looks for a call after he lost the ball against Arkansas at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville on Nov. 12, 2011.  (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess, ©KNS/2011

Tennessee wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers looks for a call after he lost the ball against Arkansas at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville on Nov. 12, 2011. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

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After a two-year rebuilding effort, the 1949 team finished with a 7-2-1 mark

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.
Tennessee defensive back Izauea Lanier is unable to stop Arkansas wide receiver Jarius Wright from scoring at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville on Nov. 12, 2011.   (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)
Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess, ©KNS/2011Tennessee defensive back Izauea Lanier is unable to stop Arkansas wide receiver Jarius Wright from scoring at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville on Nov. 12, 2011. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

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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.
Tennessee tailback Marlin Lane carries the ball against Arkansas at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville on Nov. 12, 2011.  (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)
Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess, ©KNS/2011Tennessee tailback Marlin Lane carries the ball against Arkansas at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville on Nov. 12, 2011. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

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