Tennessee to retire Majors' jersey

September, 15, 2012
9/15/12
12:20
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It's long overdue, but Tennessee will retire the No. 45 jersey of former coach and player John Majors prior to Saturday's game against Florida at Neyland Stadium.

The Majors name has long been intertwined with Tennessee football, and honoring him in this fashion was a no-brainer. He starred on the field for the Vols as a Heisman Trophy runner-up in 1956, then returned to revive the program in 1977 as head coach.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Majors
AP Photo/Wade PayneFormer Tennessee great Johnny Majors, shown at the Georgia game in 2005, was the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 1956.
"It is only fitting to honor such a distinguished playing career," Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart said in a release. "Johnny Majors is one of the greatest players in the rich and storied tradition of Tennessee football, and we are proud to bestow this honor upon him."

Majors is the eighth Tennessee player in history to have his jersey retired. Initially, only Clyde "Ig" Fuson (62), Rudy Klarer (49), Bill Nowling (32) and Willis Tucker (61) had been honored with retired numbers. They were killed in World War II and had their numbers retired in 1946.

In 2005, Tennessee retired the numbers of Doug Atkins (91), Peyton Manning (16) and the late Reggie White (92). They were the first players in Tennessee history to have their numbers retired for football achievement. At the time, many Tennessee fans wondered why Majors wasn't included in that group.

Majors, 77, played for the Vols from 1954-56 and was a two-time SEC Player of the Year. He was inducted into the College Hall of Fame as a player in 1987. He was Tennessee's head coach from 1977-92 and won three SEC championships, but was forced out toward the end of the 1992 season in what was a messy departure. Majors had a heart attack earlier that season and missed the first three games. He contends to this day that he had a contract extension sitting on his desk that was rescinded when he was in the hospital having heart bypass surgery.

Majors has emphasized that he never had any bitterness for the Tennessee people or the university, and that it was a select group of individuals he holds responsible for orchestrating his ouster.

Either way, it's refreshing to see Tennessee do the right thing and appropriately honor a man who's meant so much to the program, and do it at a time when he and his family can be here to enjoy it.

Majors' No. 45 jersey will continue to be worn by future players. According to Tennessee, all future retired jerseys will remain in circulation. The seven previous numbers retired will not be worn unless special permission is given by the honoree or surviving family members.

Chris Low | email

College Football

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