Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

July 11, 2013

ROCKY TOP BEAT: Johnny comes marching into Lake Tansi for Major(s) event

By Frank Gale
Chronicle correspondent

— The second week of July means legendary UT player and former Volunteer coach Johnny Majors is here for his annual invitational tournament. Johnny will be in and around Crossville this weekend, but make no mistake; he will be firmly planted on a par 3 hole to hit shots for participants in his tournament on Sunday. 

Each year, Lake Tansi welcomes Coach Majors, his former players, coaches, teammates and boosters to participate in a tournament that raises money for charitable causes. Johnny coached at three Division I schools (Iowa State, Tennessee and Pittsburgh) compiling a 185-137-10 (116-62-8 at UT) with one national title in 1976 while at Pittsburgh. Plus, Vol fans still talk about that memorable Sugar Bowl victory over No. 2 Miami. 

This weekend he will be telling stories, most of them true, to all the gathered guests at his fish fry on Saturday evening. Perhaps the one notable award Johnny was deprived of will certainly be a part of at least a few conversations, finishing second in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1956.

Paul Horning, who led Notre Dame to a dazzling 2-8 record, still stands as the only time that a Heisman recipient came from a losing team. Many of the Tennessee faithful, even after over half a century has past, still feel there was a “southern bias” in the voting. When Peyton Manning failed to win in the late '90s, it certainly reinforced that theory.

Johnny still managed to accrue many distinguished accolades along the way. All-American in 1956, two time SEC MVP in 1955 and 1956, Coach of the year awards, one National Title and three SEC Championships (1985, 1989 and 1990). He was recognized for his playing days at UT with his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1987. 

I just thought that those that have arrived in Tennessee since Johnny last roamed the sidelines should know why he is revered throughout Big Orange Country. Of course, most of the Vol Nation is way too young to remember when Johnny was the triple threat back dazzling opponents. 

One other great thing about this weekend, it signals that the opening day kickoff is just about a month and a half away. Fifty days to be exact, but then who is counting? Only every Vol fan – that is who! 

I guess our resident Vandy fan might even come out of hiding soon. Jim Butler has done a Houdini act since last season. I think since the atmosphere around Volunteer football changed with the arrival of Butch Jones, our friend might be a little nervous. The Big Orange Nation has circled Nov. 23 on their calendars for a little payback on the Neyland home turf. 

Speaking of the Head Vol Butch Jones, he continues to assemble some very talented players for future campaigns. The 2014 class is ranked in the top ten nationally, but there is still time to “rise to the top” before National Signing Day rolls around. 

Next Wednesday, the Vols will be in Hoover, AL, for SEC media days. Butch, realizing he is entering enemy territory, has chosen three of the larger Volunteers to accompany him to the event.  Defensive lineman Jacques Smith, along with offensive linemen Antonio Richardson and Ja’Wuan James, will be an imposing sight for the opposition to behold. 

It's getting close now, and I can almost see the Pride of the Southland Band coming down the hill playing the song we all can rally around – "Rocky Top." So, enjoy what is left of the summer and get ready for a new attitude surrounding the 2013 Vols. Once Johnny returns to Knoxville on Sunday, there will only be 48 more days to wait. Go Vols!

(Frank Gale is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)