From Peyton Manning to Jon Gruden, what they're saying about the death of Johnny Majors
Since Johnny Majors' death early Wednesday morning, several college football figures and Tennessee Vols football legends have shared their thoughts and memories.
Majors spent time as a coach at Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Iowa State, and representatives of all three have issued statements.
Tennessee AD Phillip Fulmer
Fulmer coached under Majors at Tennessee from 1980-92 before replacing him as the coach in 1992.
"It is a sad day as Tennessee losses a football legend in Johnny Majors. ... He gave many of us coaches our start in big-time college football. He mentored us, pushed us and allowed us to be part of the proud resurgence of Tennessee football. He touched and changed many lives for the good, and our thoughts are with his family, former players and great fans who are remembering him today."
Pittsburgh AD Heather Lyke
"Coach Majors set a standard at Pitt that all of us — coaches, student-athletes and administrators — continue to be inspired by. His championship legacy resonates in our department to this very day. On a personal note, it was such an honor to welcome him back for enshrinement in the Pitt Athletics Hall of Fame last fall. Coach Majors always told me, 'Pitt people are as passionate and loyal as they come.' I think that description also perfectly describes him. He remained so loyal and committed to Pitt."
Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell
"Johnny Majors is one of college football's all-time greatest coaches. Johnny came back every year and it was a pleasure for our players to get to know him and understand his legacy at Iowa State. He was one of the most important figures in Iowa State football history."
Sen. Lamar Alexander
“As a teenager, I rode the White Star Lines bus from Maryville to Knoxville and sold all my UT programs before the game started so I could watch every Johnny Majors run and pass and punt and quick kick. When he played the game, he WAS Tennessee football, and the Majors family became the First Family of Tennessee football. I got to know Johnny well when he was coach of the Volunteers, and I was university president. That friendship continued for many years. Honey and I send our sympathy and our great respect for Johnny’s life to Mary Lynn and to the entire Majors family.”
Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt
"I am deeply saddened by the loss of Coach Majors. Not only was he a Hall of Fame player and a legendary football coach, he was a great man, leader and visionary. In my short time at the University of Tennessee, I really enjoyed our conversations about life, football and our shared passion for the Vols. He would light up talking about what football and the University of Tennessee meant to him. I will miss seeing him at our practices and around our building. My condolences and prayers go out to his family, his former teammates, players and coaches and the entire Vol Nation."
Former UT quarterback Peyton Manning
"I'm very sad to hear the news of coach Majors' passing. It's a sad day for the Tennessee family. ... It was such an honor to be a University of Tennessee ambassador with coach Majors. I always enjoyed talking to him about his playing days at Tennessee and about some of the great games that he played in and some of the great rivalries of that time. I really enjoyed those conversations. A lot of Tennessee fans tell me that I should have won the Heisman Trophy, but I can promise you, it was coach Majors who really should have been the Heisman winner his senior year."
Duke football coach David Cutcliffe
Cutcliffe coached various positions for the Vols from 1982-92 under Majors.
"Karen and I have heavy hearts today; very heavy hearts. Our deepest sympathies to Mary Lynn and the entire Majors family. College football has lost one of the truly great players and coaches the game has ever had. There is no person in coaching who I carry more respect for than Coach Majors. He gave me the opportunity of a lifetime in 1982 — to coach college football and make a positive impact on the lives of young people — and for that I will forever be grateful. ... The lessons he taught me were so much more than what I gave in return. I know he's in a better place, and for that I am thankful, but that doesn't stop me from wishing there was one more conversation with him to say 'thank you and I love you.'"
Former UT AD Doug Dickey
Dickey was the athletics director from 1985-2002, spending seven years with Majors.
"I've said one thing all along about Johnny Majors — he is a Tennessee hero. He was a wonderful player and coach who had a great circle of friends and family. He was highly respected in the coaching community and brought multiple football championships to Tennessee."
Raiders coach Jon Gruden
Gruden served as a graduate assistant under Majors from 1986-87.
"Coach Majors had a huge impact on me personally and professionally. He gave me my first job and was responsible for teaching me what the game of football is really all about. He taught life lessons that I still live by today as a husband, father and coach. He preached that loyalty and hard work are the staples to your success. The amount of players he touched over several decades is endless. He was a heck of a football coach, a great competitor and truly embodied what Tennessee football is all about. We lost a great, great man, and I will miss him dearly."
Former Florida, Illinois coach Ron Zook
Zook was the defensive backs coach under Majors from 1984-86.
"Sometimes he was a hard guy to work for, but he taught me a lot. I think the one thing — and I've had the opportunity to work for a lot of great coaches — the one thing he always tried to do was take the things away that fit your personality. The one thing that I really felt like with coach Majors was that he was great during the game. He used to always say that if you're yelling on Saturday, you didn't do enough yelling during the week. During the game, he was great. He never came unglued, he was always in full control of what was going on, in full control of his faculties and the team. Sometimes you see coaches that are not quite that way during the game, but he was and I always tried to emulate that on gamedays."