KNOXVILLE (WVLT) - Johnny Majors once called Tony Dorsett one of the greatest athletes he's ever coached. On a visit to Knoxville Wednesday, Dorsett returned the favor to the man who coached him through one of the greatest playing careers in college football history.
"We always used to try to imitate him and that old country southern drawl that he had, but the thing that I liked about him was that he was a fair coach." Dorsett said. "Every time we made a suggestion to Coach Majors, every one of them he accepted. He always said that if we act like young men, he'll treat us like young men. "
Dorsett has accomplished everything there is to accomplish on the football field.
At the college level, he won a national championship and a Heisman Trophy, was a four-time All-American and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
In the NFL, he took home a Super Bowl ring in his rookie season, was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and played in four Pro Bowls.
Not bad for a son of the Western Pennsylvania steel mills.
"The epiphany I had as a kid that drove me to not want to live that steel mill lifestyle was when I went to get keys from my dad," Dorsett said. "This man was walking up to me from the steel mill covered in filth, and I didn't even know it was my dad.
Right then and there I realized that was not the life I wanted to live, so I went to the University of Pittsburgh, got a good college education, got lucky enough to get into professional football, and it's just been a great ride."
Dorsett was in town Wednesday to endorse the Chuck Ward Flipping House Book/DVD on behalf of Hall of Fame Mortgage, who is opening an office in Knoxville. He credited Majors with some of the character traits he's taken with him into the business world.
"I use a lot of the sayings and slogans that he would throw on us, like 'little things make big things happen.' I'm a real stickler for that, not only just in sports but business and relationships -- the little things you do one way or the other can make or break a situation," Dorsett said.
Dorsett also sounded off on Majors' forced resignation in 1992, which followed a controversial series of events and is still a sore point with the former coach.
"From my vantage point I thought it was a raw deal; it's unfortunate that it happened. He was very proud of his alma mater, and it seems like he got undermined a little bit when he got ill, but for a guy to win an average of over nine games a year and to lose his job, that's a tough call. He's back and I'm hoping bygones are bygones and he'll just go over there and enjoy what's going on at his alma mater," Dorsett said.
Majors and his wife recently moved back to Knoxville, a place Dorsett said the coach always urged him to come see on a fall Saturday. He believes the explosive enthusiasm of places like Neyland Stadium is one of the main ways in which the college game has grown since his days at Pitt.
"I think the fanfare -- ESPN going out to stadiums -- and fans of college football are like no other fans of sports. They're very adamant, they really get behind their teams. That's the thing that maybe has grown a little bit. You look at your own stadium here -- you have to expand, you go to Michigan, they're expanding. Everybody's getting new stadiums so they can get more people," Dorsett said.
But Dorsett maintains that some aspects of the game will always remain the same, like the primary factor he believes it takes to succeed in college football.
"Work ethic. Truth of 30 years is still truth of today. You're going to get out of it what you put into it," Dorsett said.
"That will never change."