SEC fans across the country are mourning the death of University of Tennessee football coaching legend, Johnny Majors. Majors passed away early Wednesday at his home in Knoxville, according to his wife. He was 85. He was the second SEC legend to die this week, as Auburn coach Pat Dye passed away on June 1.
Growing up a native to the area, Majors went on to star at UT in the 1950’s. He was named the SEC Most Valuable Player in 1955 and 1956. In fact, he was the runner-up for the 1956 Heisman, losing to Paul Hornung of Notre Dame.
Dynamic on the field.
Fierce on the sidelines.
We mourn the loss of legendary player and coach Johnny Majors—a man who left an indelible mark on Tennessee Football. pic.twitter.com/0ImKAKrclK
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) June 3, 2020
Following his playing days, Majors got his first chance as a head coach with the Iowa State Cyclones in 1968.
After five years, Majors took the head job at the University of Pittsburgh. In his four years at Pitt, Majors’ squads played in three bowl games, including a perfect record season and a national title in 1976. He would compile a record of 45-45-1 at the school.
One year after his title run, Majors headed back to Knoxville to take the reigns at the University of Tennessee. From 1977-1992, Majors would go 116-62-8 in Knoxville. During his tenure, the Vols won three SEC championships in 1985, 1989 and 1990.
During the 1992 season, health reasons forced Majors to step down at UT. He returned to Pitt in 1993 but was unable to find the magic he had with them earlier in his career.
Although his career ended in 1996, Majors’ impact on the game is felt to this day. Jon Gruden, the head coach for the Las Vegas Raiders, got his first taste of coaching under Majors as a graduate assistant in 1986.
“Coach Majors had a huge impact on me personally and professionally,” Gruden said in a statement. “He gave me my first job and was responsible for teaching me what the game of football is really about. He taught life lessons that I still live by today as a husband, father and coach. He preached that loyalty and hard work are staples to your success. The amount of players he touched over several decades is endless. He was a heck of a football coach, a great competitor and embodied what Tennessee football is all about. We lost a great, great man and I will miss him dearly.”
Eventually, Majors returned to Knoxville with his wife, Mary Lynn, where he resided for the rest of his life.
Majors always held the University of Tennessee close to his heart, even though he was no longer the head coach.