Johnny Majors, famous college football coach, dies at 85

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A 1987 inductee of the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame, John Terrill (Johnny) Majors played for the Volunteers from 1954-56 and later served as Tennessee's head football coach from 1977-92.

Majors was a two-time SEC player of the year at Tennessee before returning to coach his alma-mater immediately after leading Pitt to a national title in 1976. He finished as the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, losing out to Notre Dame's Paul Hornung. From there, he would land his first head-coaching job at Iowa State, where he spent five seasons and brought the Cyclones to their first bowl game appearances in 1971 and 1972.

"I didn't know I was a legend", Majors said at that time. Majors was the Sporting News Coach of the Year in 1976, and the SEC Coach of the Year in 1985. Majors also intercepted two passes at Tennessee and punted 83 times for a 39.1-yard average.

As a coach, Majors rebuilt programs at Iowa State, Pittsburgh and Tennessee. "He preached that loyalty and hard work are the staples to your success. Tennessean distinguished. We mourn the loss of legendary player and coach Johnny Majors, a man who left an indelible mark on Tennessee Football", said the University of Tennessee Football. "The amount of players he touched over several decades is endless". We lost a great man, and I will miss him very much. "Thank you, Coach. Rest in peace".


The Panthers were coming from a 1-10 season when they took over and had won a total of 23 games in the nine years prior to their arrival. Tennessee, with Fulmer serving as coach, started out 3-0 that season with wins over nationally ranked Georgia and Florida. Majors returned for the fourth game, but was sent off and replaced by Fulmer after Tennessee ended the regular season with an 8-3 record. He underwent open heart surgery early in the 1992 season, and was forced out at the end of the year in favor of assistant coach Phillip Fulmer, who had been interim coach during Majors' absence. He mentored us, pushed us and allowed us to be part of the proud resurgence of Tennessee football. Father Shirley coached at Huntland from 1949 to 1957 and then at the University of the South, Sewanee, from 1957-1977.

Cutcliffe, now the head coach at Duke, said he still has some of the notes he would take in staff meetings with Majors while at Tennessee.

Panther Running back Tony Dorsett was awarded the Heisman Trophy 20 years after Majors was denied.

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