I watch or listen to the University of Tennessee football games as often as possible. The team called the Volunteers has been my team since I first began to hear the storied Vols on our old battery powered Philco Cathedral style radio in the late 40s and early 50s. Early on we had no electric power and it was before transistor radio days so the battery was approximately 1 foot long by six inches high and six inches wide. My loyalty to the program has been constant, win or loose. In recent times the team has been through somewhat of a dry spell but hopefully success will come under the leadership of Coach Butch Jones.
When I think of those early days of my life, many memories come to mind. I remember being glued to the radio as I listened to the exploits of Hank Lauricella and others. Lauricella, who though small for college football, stood out as one of the best players in the history of UT football. Lauricella, who stood 5-11 and weighed only 175 pounds, earned All-Southeastern Conference and All-American in 1951. He finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting that year.
While he was before my time, Ive heard so much about the great performances of Gene McEver, who was from Bristol and played on the Virginia High School squad before his standout college career at the University of Tennessee. He was named to the All-American team in 1929. He was the first Volunteer player to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He was truly a great Volunteer.
Over the years Ive followed the fortunes of several great men who played on the Volunteers team. Although most certainly not an exhaustive list, it includes Johnny Majors, Condredge Holloway, Doug Atkins and Peyton Manning.
The coach in charge in my early years of listening to Volunteer games on the radio was the legendary General Robert (Bob) Neyland. He had a very successful coaching career at the University of Tennessee. He came to UT as an Army captain and left as a brigadier general. He came to Tennessee as an ROTC instructor and backfield coach in 1925 and was named head football coach in 1926. Due to his military service responsibilities, he coached off and on at UT until his retirement in 1954. He led Tennessee to a national championship in 1951.
He was not only successful as a coach, he also excelled in the Army, being awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and the Legion of Merit and he was made a member of the Order of the British Empire. Coach Neyland was born February 17, 1892 and died March 28, 1962. He is buried in the Knoxville National Cemetery.
As I watch UT games on television or hear them on the radio I think back to the great players and coaches that have been a part of that storied football program over the years. It remains to be seen how the Volunteers will do the rest of the season. Hopefully the team will have a measure of success this year.