Celebrating Johnny Majors


Written by: Dallas Bowlin

Twitter: @dallas_bowlin


John Terrill Majors was born on May 21st, 1935 in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Although I can’t dig up many facts about his earlier days, he does have a book from 1986 “You Can Go Home Again,” but getting your hands on a copy is extremely rare. So, lets transition to his playing career; before stepping into a Vols uniform, Majors played under his father at Huntland High School, where they won state in 1951. Then in 1953, Majors started his playing career at the University of Tennessee. Majors totaled 1,622 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns on 387 carries while also completing 54.1% of his passes for 1,135 yards and 11 scores. He also played other positions at Tennessee, including defense.  Tennessee was 20-10-1 during his time in the orange and white. For his career, he was an All American and Heisman Trophy runner up, losing to Paul Hornung whose Notre Dame Football team was 2-8. (To this date, Hornung is the only Heisman Trophy winner to play on a losing team.) For his head coaching career, Majors started at Iowa State in 1968 and held that position for five seasons (1968-1972). His coaching record there was 24-30-1. He led them to their first bowl games in school history in 1971 and 1972. Majors ranks tied for 8th in all time wins, and 19th in all time win percentage at Iowa State. He was then named the Head Coach at Pittsburgh in 1973. There, Majors recruited Heisman winner Tony Dorsett and Matt Cavanaugh. Pitt won the National Title in 1976, and Majors was named national coach of the year. Majors became Tennessee’s head coach in 1977, achieving success in the 80’s and 90’s. He won three SEC titles in 85, 89, and 90 but fell short of the big one. In 1992, while recovering from heart surgery, under interim HC Philip Fulmer the VOLS went 3-0. After going 2-3 following his return, he was asked to resign. Then Pitt and retired in 1996 from coaching. The road in front of UT's practice facilities was named "Johnny Majors Drive". On June 3rd, 2020, Johnny passed away. According to his wife, Johnny passed doing what he loved most: watching the Tennessee River flow. Johnny was (and still is) the picture of what a VFL (vol for life) should be. He truly loved Tennessee and Tennessee loved him. He saw his beloved university go through some of the worst years it has ever experienced, a coach leaving over night and telling no one, a 4-8 season record, going winless in the sec , and countless cliche filled excuses for those loses. We wish Johnny could’ve experienced one more national championship on this earth, but if and when the Vols win the big one again, Johnny will definitely be there in spirit. We love you, Johnny. Rest in peace.

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