Ha! Wish I could remember that. In general I have a horrible memory but I tend to remember randomass details that do include a movie here or there that someone came to see. Unfortunately that’s not one of them. Then again, fortunately, the sight of Johnny Majors scooping popcorn I can still see clear as a bell.
Found a letter from Coach Majors dated Dec. 7, 1992 thanking me for the note I'd sent in appreciation of his tenure at UT-K. He even added a lengthy P.S. dated 6/7/93 & a hand-written note dated 6-4-93. Very classy & personal, though I never met him personally. He sent it on UT Football stationery, but it came a yellow envelope from the Pittsburgh Football office.
For those of you who don't know, I'm not the real Greg Amsler. He was my favorite player as a kid (a true Johnny Majors type player), so I used the name as my moniker. I grew up in Middle Tennessee as a huge Vol and Johnny Majors fan. That said, I'm pretty broken up about this loss. I'll tell y'all about my family's connection to the Majors'.
My father played football and baseball at Sewanee for Shirley Majors. In our family, when we refer to "Coach," it's Shirley, not Johnny. My father, who was used to being a star in high school, didn't like Coach at first. Coach treated him like everyone else. Eventually, Dad came to love Coach, whose style was a lot like Johnny's, and, after he graduated, they remained close, often bird hunting together. When Coach died (heart attack, I think), he was bird hunting. He was found because his two bird dogs, Chico and Randy, whom my father had helped train, stood by his fallen body in a field until someone spotted their tails. Chico and Randy became our dogs. The first of many bird dogs I remember having.
Through Dad's connection to Coach, he also became good friends with his sons, especially Larry and Bobby, but also Johnny and Joe. My first UT game was not at Neyland Stadium. It was the 1982 game at LSU. The teams tied. Coach (Johnny) Majors arranged for us to stay in the team hotel and I got to meet Willie Gault. He was incredibly nice to me and I thought I was meeting the greatest football player in the world.
My mother and grandmother both became close to Elizabeth Bobo Majors, Johnny's mother. She was an amazing woman and quite a character. Some of you may have heard her line about burning the biscuits sometimes, which she uttered when asked about Johnny's fumble against Baylor in the Sugar Bowl. She was also a helluva cook. She never got over what UT did to her son.
When I talked about the death of Coach Majors with my mother yesterday, she recalled Coach's (Shirley) frequent visits to the house to go bird hunting with Dad. She recalled that she always made sausage and biscuits and they chatted while Dad "got ready" and I sat in my high chair pounding down scrambled eggs. She said Coach would say, "those birds don't care how sweet you smell" and his eyes would twinkle. I still have a softball he brought me on one of those visits. I mentioned a particular memory of Larry helping me put a Lego battleship together while Dad impatiently urged him to get going so they could hunt. But Larry was insistent on helping me finish it. Mom said Larry was really upset by my parents' divorce and adored us kids. He's a tender-hearted man and he was my first thought when I heard the news yesterday. I wish him peace during this time.
The last time I spoke to Johnny, I was at a UT game in 2009 or 2010 and he was the Legend of the Game. He was his same jovial self. He was kind enough to endorse my cousin in her run for state rep a few years ago.
It's funny, I haven't seen any of the Majors' since I spoke to Larry at my grandmother's funeral 7 years ago. But I feel like I lost a family member yesterday. Another piece of my childhood is gone. And it has little to do with all of those great football memories Johnny Majors gave us...and he gave us many. I'm a Tennessee Vols fan because of Johnny Majors and the Majors family.
RIP to the most prominent member of Tennessee's First Football Family. I hope his reunion with Shirley, Elizabeth, and Bill is as sweet as I imagine it to be.
I was a reporter for the Bristol newspaper back in the late 1970s when Coach Majors was there. UT would have a press conference on Tuesday afternoons, with Coach Majors attending and usually the coach of UT's next opponent on the phone. (This was before the days of video conferencing, of course!) One week, just after Coach Majors had dropped a big name running back, Hubert Simpson, from the squad the week before a reporter again asked him about it. And he got a little hot. Not too bad but he explained, for the second week, why he had dropped Simpson and finished his "discussion" by saying he was tired of explaining.
Then Ben Byrd, from the Knoxville Journal, asked "What was that question again, Coach?' There was kind of an awkward pause, then Ben said "I just wanted to know so I would never ask that same thing again." Everyone, including Coach Majors, laughed. And that, to me, seemed to define Coach Majors. He had a temper and he would be fiery on occasion but he could laugh and joke too. He led the Vols back to national prominence and made me proud to be a Volunteer fan.
I loved to see both Johnny Majors and Pat Dye try to make it sound like they didn't have strong teams and that they would have problems during the games against each other That seemed to go on every season
One of my fondest memories from my youth during the 1980s was getting up early on Saturday morning to drive up to Knoxville with my dad for the game - and then both of us watching the Johnny Majors Show on the local TV channel (can't remember which network) the following day. My dad was a scumbag, so this is one of the few really good memories that I have of him, and I'll always associate those good times with Coach Majors.
.I met coach Majors a few times over the years when he came to recruit some players in my area and at a golf fundraiser in Nashville and heard him speak a time or two at coaching clinics . Several years back (20 years or so) he was playing in a golf tourney here and he made a long putt on the next hole close enough you could hear him loudly say.....Put me in coach, I'm hot today!!! It broke up that area of the course.
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This is my avatar pic. This is me when I was 8 years old at the 1986 O&W game that at the time broke a Guinness attendance record for “spring game”. The hat I’m wearing had a little button under the bill that played Rocky Top.
Unfortunately at some point in my 20’s somebody spilled some whiskey on the picture and the colors bled. Thankfully my father in law is into photo restoration and he was able to bring it back much closer to its original glory.
My brother who is 9 years older also had his “official portrait with Coach Majors “so this was a BIG DEAL to me! For a native born Tennesseean/VFL to me this was like meeting Santa, only by this age I’m pretty sure I no longer believed in Santa but I knew that Coach Majors was the real deal.
My grandfather, who is now 90 and still knows every coaching change , recruit commit , score , etc... associated with The Big Orange was very well connected in the UTAD back in the day. I remember Gus Manning calling him several times each season looking for extra tickets because at one time my grandfather had the most obscene number of tickets that you could imagine. He gave a lot of them away to friends , business associates, strangers, etc...If it was a big game he would “make a couple of bucks”.When a no name opponent was in town we would head over to the bookstore before watching the band where my grandfather would unload countless extra tickets to “the guy in the green jacket”
We would see Coach Majors at the Hyatt on Friday nights before games where he filmed a tv show with Pat Ryan IIRC. I remember bumping into Coach Majors @the Dallas Hyatt before 1990 Cotton Bowl where he was heading to a 50’s style sock hop with his mother.I still remember that coach had on an old fashioned TN letter sweater and orange and white saddle oxfords !Whether he really knew us or not he always went out of his way to come over and speak and to me this was bigger than being in the presence of The President , Santa , Michael Jordan ... you name it .
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
RIP Coach Majors. If ever an individual lived “in the arena” of Volunteer football, it was you.