Johnny Majors

UT Knoxville, ’57


Part of the Tennessee Alumnus’ 100 Distinguished Alumni feature.

Johnny Majors was born into a Tennessee football family, the eldest of five sons who all played college football. Coached by his father, Shirley Majors, Johnny Majors played alongside his brother, Joe, on the Huntland Hornets high school team that won the state championship in 1951.

Johnny Majors came to UT as a single-wing tailback triple threat, and when his playing career ended, he ranked in the top 10 in total offense (2,757) and rushing yards (1,622) and was the single-season record holder for pass completion percentage (61 percent in 1956). His accomplishments also earned him a spot in the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame.

After his playing days, Majors turned to coaching, eventually serving as head coach at Iowa State and Pittsburgh, where the Pitt Panthers won the national title in 1976. In response to the news of Majors’ return to his alma mater in 1977 to coach the Volunteers, headlines celebrated with “Johnny Comes Marching Home.” Over 16 seasons, his teams won the 1985 SEC championship and back-to-back conference titles in 1989 and 1990. He left coaching and UT in 1992 with an overall coaching record of 185-137-10.

“Johnny Majors is one of the greatest players in the rich and storied tradition of Tennessee football,” says Vols Athletics Director Dave Hart.

“The first thing any coaching staff must do is weed out selfishness,” Majors says. “No program can be successful with players who put themselves ahead of the team.”