Homegrown Tennessee Legendary Player, Coach Johnny Majors Passes Away

Ross Houston
June 5, 2020

College Football Hall of Famer Johnny Majors, the coach of Pittsburgh's 1976 national championship team and a former coach and star player at Tennessee, died Wednesday. Majors was also head coach at Iowa State from 1968-1972, Pittsburgh from 1973-1976, and Pittsburgh again from 1993-1996.

As a senior in 1956, Majors rushed for 549 yards and seven touchdowns and was the SEC player of the Year for a second straight year and a unanimous All-American, but was the Heisman Trophy runner-up to Paul Hornung of 2-8 Notre Dame, to date the only Heisman victor to have played on a losing team.

Majors is surrounded by members of the Tennessee Volunteers during a game against the University of Notre Dame in November 1990

Majors' list of honors is extensive and includes the Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award, the AFCA Coach of the Year Award, the Sporting News College Football Coach of the Year Award and an SEC Coach of the Year Award.

Majors' head coaching record at Tennessee was 116-62-8, and his resilience was never more apparent than the 1988 season when the Vols lost their first six games.

He proved even more successful in the training ranks, where his training tree included Jimmy Johnson and Jackie Sherrill on his first staff in the state of Iowa. Gruden said Majors taught him what soccer is about. Bobby Majors was a Tennessee defensive back from 1969-71. He left Pitt in 1977 and coached the next sixteen years at his alma mater, winning three SEC championships and two Sugar Bowls. "He preached that loyalty and hard work are the staples to your success".

Pitt also addressed Majors' passing, saying, "He led us to our greatest glory and changed Pitt forever. The amount of players he touched over several decades is endless". "Thank you, Coach. Rest in peace". Pitt struggled to a 12-32 mark leaving Majors with a 45-45-1 mark at Pittsburgh and 185-137-10 career ledger. Majors returned for the fourth game, but was forced out as coach and replaced by Fulmer following the end of the regular season.

Tennessee Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer served as an assistant under Majors from 1980-92. Father Shirley coached at Huntland from 1949 to 1957 and then at the University of the South, Sewanee, from 1957-1977. "He guided us, pushed us, and allowed us to be part of Tennessee's proud soccer revival".

After he won the national title at Pitt, Majors returned to his beloved Tennessee.

"Johnny Majors is one of college football's all-time greatest coaches", Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said. Majors went 4-5-2 against Dye, including a 38-20 surprise at the time No. 1 Auburn with Bo Jackson in 1985 when Majors was the SEC coach of the year.

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