Tennessee Football Tradition -- One of the Greatest
Tennessee has one of the greatest traditions of all. And General Neyland is my all-time favorite coach because he loved that one platoon football, he loved the sixty-minute man, he loved the kicking game and great defense, and so do I. I can't stand watching these sloppy 42- 38 football games they play too often today. I loved those old 10-7 or 14-13 games, just the same as I love 3-2 baseball games rather than these steroid-driven 11-10 games full of cheap home runs. Touchdowns, like home runs, are best appreciated when earned.
I wish to goodness they'd bring back that strict substitution football, because I loved the old triple-threat men, and I loved watching the greatest players from my childhood play both ways. I saw LSU's Billy Cannon in person in New Orleans against Tulane, saw him play just as well as a defensive back as he did carrying the ball. Same for your Johnny Majors, who I saw in the Senior Bowl in Mobile back in January of 1957. My biggest Senior Bowl thrill of all was getting Majors' autograph, got it right on his picture in my Senior Bowl program. He was my favorite player in 1956, and I thought he should have won the Heisman rather than being runner-up. Those guys were great on offense and on defense.
All these fat players today who are in for one play and then have to run to the sideline for some oxygen and a breather wouldn't have had a chance in those old days of strict substitution. All you have to do is look at the sizes of the average players of the late 50's, and what you see are slim guys in terrific shape because they had to be while playing limited substitution football. And they were great athletes, not just hulking behemoths taking up space on the line of scrimmage.
Alabama won a National Championship in 1961 with a bunch of little guys who were in greater shape and tougher than anyone else. And how I miss the great chess matches of field position football as practiced by Neyland, Bryant, and Royal! Football was more of a thinking man's game in the days of field position. My dad always told me about Tennessee's great 1939 team that shutout everyone in the regular season, and Neyland's '31 team that gave only one TD all year long. That's unimaginable today! I think that, more than anyone, Neyland gets the credit for making the top SEC teams the tough defensive teams they still are today. Bryant said Neyland was the greatest coach of them all.
And Tennessee is a truly classy program, much more so than most other SEC schools: from Peyton Manning (class personified) back to Beattie Feathers; plus your great orange-checked end zones (best in football); and your lifetime refusal to flinch in the face of Alabama (which historically everyone else in the SEC does, excepting you and Auburn).
Lane Kiffin is lower than scum for leaving a school like Tennessee, one of the few signature programs of college football. USC is the media darling, overglamourized by media sycophants who like the idea of the gigantic L.A. media market, Malibu, and the Pacific beaches, etc., and I suppose that's the kind of superficial stuff Kiffin wanted. Neyland must have turned over in his grave and thrown up when Kiffin absconded.
But Tennessee is better off now anyway; Kiffin would have brought nothing but disgrace and severe sanctions to the school. He represents everything that's wrong about college football today. I'll be pulling as hard for him to fall on his face at USC as you and any Tennessee fan will. Best of luck to the Vols as they begin preparation for next year, and here's hoping you beat Bama in 2010!