Tennessee Volunteers Football History

Tennessee Volunteers football history is a one of the most storied in all of college football. The Vols have a long list of All-American players and coaches and a reputation as one of the winningest college football programs. [UPDATE: A new chapter in UT football history began with the hiring of Vince Dooley's son as our new head coach. Check out our new Derek Dooley Biography.]

An assortment of distinctive traditions also accompany the Volunteers mystique, including running through the "T" on game day; the band's playing of "Rocky Top" over and over and over again. Even UT's orange and white checkerboard end zone is unique and famous.

The UT Vols make most lists of all-time top 10 NCAA college football teams. Historically, in the SEC, probably only Alabama outranks Tennessee's overall football traditions/history, etc.

Tennessee Volunteers football history goes all the way back to 1891 when Tennessee first fielded a competitive football squad. They were not part of any conference at the beginning. However, in 1896, the University of Tennessee became part of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association. From 1921 to 1932, Tennessee played in the Southern Conference. Finally, in 1933, the Volunteers joined the Southeastern Conference (SEC).

Neyland Stadium History

As long-time radio announcer and "Voice of the Vols" John Ward would say: "Football Time in Tennessee" is a very, very special thing. What makes it so special That's hard to say really. It's a whole bunch of different things, including the Orange and White colors, the fight song "Rocky Top"; the mascot "Smokey"; the traditions.

But, maybe more than anything, it's about Neyland Stadium. The history of Neyland Stadium is covered extensively at Best SEC Football Stadium.

On football game days, more than 100,000 orange and white clad fans pack the stands, making Neyland Stadium the 5th biggest city in the State of Tennessee. The Stadium is currently the third biggest in the United States and the largest in the South, after a total of 16 expansion projects raised Neyland's official capacity to 104, 079 seats currently.

The Stadium's size means that the Vols always play before one of the biggest crowds in college football. While the "Rocky Top" fight song plays, "Smokey" (UT's beloved coonhound mascot) dances about the sidelines – an icon whose been cheering on the Volunteers since 1953 (current Smokey is the 12th generation).

Over the years, Neyland Stadium has hosted some of the best college football rivalries in the Nation. Tennessee's biggest rivals are the Alabama Crimson Tide, Florida Gators, Georgia Bulldogs, and Kentucky Wildcats.

Notable Coaches and Players

In the history of Tennessee Volunteers football, there have been numerous players and coaches that have earned recognition for their many contributions. The effort and esteem shows through in the various College Hall of Fame inductions associated with the team. For instance, a handful of coaches and players who have gone on to create history in the NFL have been elected to the Hall of Fame.

One of the most notable inductees is General Bob Neyland elected to the Hall of Fame in 1956 after becoming the all-time winningest coach in Volunteer history.

Neyland is known for winning four National Championships in 1938, 1940, 1950, and 1951. Doug Dickey in 1967 and Phillip Fulmer in 1998 claimed the other two National Championship victories under the Volunteers' belt. In 2003, Doug Dickey was added to the list of all-time best Tennessee Volunteers football coaches.

As for the players, there have been many Tennessee Volunteers football players who have continued on with prosperous professional football careers in the NFL. To date, two former Volunteers have earned the coveted 1st Pick of the NFL Draft - Peyton Manning (Indianapolis Colts) in 1998 and George Cafego (Cardinals) in 1940.

Retired Numbers

The Tennessee Volunteers have retired a collection of uniform numbers in honor of former players, including the #16 that Manning wore as quarterback. Sometimes, a number is retired to pay homage to fallen teammates. World War II claimed the lives of three former Volunteers, who received the retired number honor - #32 Bill Nowling (former fullback from 1940 to 1942); #49 Rudy Klarer (former guard from 1941 to 1942); #61 Willis Tucker (former fullback in 1940); and #62 Clyde Fuson (former fullback in 1942).

Doug Atkins, a former defensive end for the Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, and New Orleans Saints, had his #91 jersey retired and was also added to the College Football Hall of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame. The retired number of 92 once belonged to Reggie White, a former defensive end that played for the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers after his Volunteer career.

Did you know?

The school colors associated with the University of Tennessee football team came from Charles Moore, who was a member of the first squad in 1891. He suggested the color scheme of orange and white to complement the many daisies surrounding the Knoxville campus.

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