BY JOHN PAINTER
Bobby Majors’ first trip to the SEC title game promises to be special.
The former Tennessee All-America defensive back and return artist is one of 12 SEC Football Legends for the 2011 SEC Championship Game. Those individuals are being saluted Friday night and again before Saturday’s 4 p.m. kickoff as part of the “Weekend of Champions” in Atlanta.
“It’s certainly an honor being named a legend of Tennessee football,” Majors said. “It’s a thrill to be remembered for what you did back 40 years ago.”
Of course, Majors would have been quite familiar with the hoopla surrounding an SEC Championship Game had Roy Kramer’s brainchild existed in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. Majors played three seasons at UT from 1969-71, helping the Vols to a 30-5 overall record and 13-4 league mark that saw losses only to Auburn (twice), Alabama and Mississippi.
In other words, Tennessee would have been Eastern Division kings.
As it was, the Vols won the 1969 SEC title, finished second in 1970 and tied for fourth in 1971. They were 2-1 in bowl games, including a Sugar Bowl victory after the 1970 season.
“It was one of those things where everything meshed together and we had good cohesiveness, particularly on the defensive side,” Majors said. “In 1971, our offense had some problems putting points on the board but we had some awfully good people on defense.”
Making Them Miss
Majors seemingly could do it all, and his favorite activity was on special teams.
“I guess returning punts was what I enjoyed the most,” said Majors, who still owns UT’s career marks for punt returns (117) and yardage (1,163). He led the team in all three varsity seasons and his 9.9-yard average remains the school mark for a minimum 100 attempts.
“It was one of those deals where you wanted to see how many people you could make miss,” he said. “At that point and time, it was just a game to get those guys to not tackle me.”
Majors earned unanimous All-SEC honors in 1970 and 1971, and was a consensus All-America selection in 1971.
He also was part of a Vols defensive unit that, when not forcing three-and-outs, caused plenty of turnovers. Majors led the 1970 squad in interceptions with 10, and Tennessee finished with 36 total interceptions that year. Both figures remain school records.
“Playing defensive back and intercepting passes definitely was the second-most enjoyable thing I did in football,” he said.
Majors’ accomplishments came right in the middle of a coaching change. Doug Dickey ended his six-year tenure in 1969, giving way to Bill Battle.
Just Like His Father
As the son of legendary Sewanee football head coach Shirley Majors, Bobby appreciated the differences both of his college mentors brought to the sidelines.
“There was a tremendous difference, and both had their good and negative points,” he said. “Doug Dickey had more of a business-like atmosphere. He was very methodical.
“Bill Battle was a young guy when he got the head coaching job and I had a lot of respect for Bill; I still do. Bill had a great staff of coaches the two years I played for him as a junior and senior.”
Majors said he was able to anticipate certain things he learned from his father and from his older brother, Johnny, who went on to an illustrious coaching career of his own and was Tennessee’s SEC Legend in 2002.
“Because I’d been around it all my life, I kind of knew what to expect on the field as well as off the field from a coaching standpoint,” Majors said. “It’s not to say I was prepared for everything, but I certainly was aware of the possibilities coming around the corner from a work ethic as well as a disciplinary standpoint.”
Majors, who lives in Chattanooga and owns a wholesale cleaning chemicals business, said he doesn’t know any of the other SEC Legends but definitely is looking forward to meeting them and enjoying the weekend with his family.
“We’re going to celebrate together,” he said. “We’ve got the Friday night dinner and then they are introducing us on the field before kickoff on Saturday. It should be a great time.”