Johnny Majors, famous college football coach, dies at 85

Tanya Simon
June 6, 2020

Johnny Majors, the coach of Pittsburgh's 1976 national championship football team and a former coach and star player at Tennessee, has died.

"It's with a sad heart that we make this announcement", she said. "He spent his last hours doing something he loved: looking over his precious Tennessee River", he said in a statement given to Sports Radio WNML. There he won seven bowl games and three SEC championships, and was named coach of the year multiple times.

Johnny Majors, a college football legend as both a player and coach, has died.

In 1973, he left to become coach at Pittsburgh and won a national championship in 1976 with a 12-0 record.

Majors was a head coach at the college level from 1968-1996. with programs including Pitt, Iowa State and - most notably - Tennessee, where he led the Volunteers for 16 seasons. Pitt struggled to a 12-32 mark leaving Majors with a 45-45-1 mark at Pittsburgh and 185-137-10 career ledger.

Majors starred at Tennessee from 1954-56 as a single-wing tailback and punter. He was a quarterback for Tennessee and finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting to Paul Hornung in 1956.

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He was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1987.

Majors gave Jon Gruden, now the NFL Raiders coach, his first I work as a graduate assistant in Tennessee. Majors had the key pass completion to Buddy Cruze and sent Tommy Bronson hurdling the line for the game's only score at the north end of Grant Field in Atlanta.

Majors' collegiate playing career alone places his among the pantheon of Tennessee's all-time greats. "The amount of players he touched over several decades is endless". He was a heck of a football coach, a great competitor and truly embodied what Tennessee football is all about. Father Shirley coached at Huntland from 1949 to 1957 and then at the University of the South, Sewanee, from 1957-1977. We lost a great man, and I will miss him very much.

The youngest Majors was an assistant coach in the state of MS and Arkansas before becoming head coach. "He guided us, pushed us, and allowed us to be part of Tennessee's proud soccer revival".

Added DeLong: "One of the last times I talked to Coach Majors, he said, 'I wasn't too hard on you, was I?' I told him, 'Coach, I'm thankful you were as hard on me as you were".

Charles Davis, an National Football League analyst for CBS Sports, played on the 1985 SEC championship team under Majors that beat Miami 35-7 in the Sugar Bowl. In lieu of flowers, please consider contributions to the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra or the charity of your choice.

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