Johnny Majors


Majors played high school football for the Huntland Hornets of Franklin County, Tennessee. They won the state championship in 1951. Majors’ father, Shirley Majors, was the head coach at Huntland from 1949–1957. Majors also played alongside his brother, Joe, at Huntland.

A triple-threat tailback at the University of Tennessee, one of the last schools to use the single-wing rather than some version of the T formation, Majors was an All-American and runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 1956. He played for the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League in 1957 and then became an assistant coach at several schools.

At Tennessee, Majors achieved success in the 1980s and early 1990s winning three SEC Championships (in 1985, 1989 and 1990), but falling short of a National Championship. In 1989, the Majors-led Vols followed a 5–6 season with a 11–1 season, the largest turnaround of the year.

Majors was forced to resign as UT’s football coach during the closing weeks of the 1992 football season. The Vols racked up a 5-0 record under interim coach Phillip Fulmer, a longtime Majors assistant, who steered the team while Majors was recovering from heart surgery. After the Vols lost three games following Majors’ return, he suddenly was asked to resign during the week leading up to Tennessee’s game at Memphis State.

Some believe that Majors was forced out in order to make room for Fulmer, who had become more popular with a majority of fans following his success as interim coach. A Knoxville News Sentinel story at the time also reported that Fulmer allegedly exchanged 26 telephone calls while Majors was recuperating from heart surgery with then-UT Athletics Board member Bill Johnson, who had played with Majors in the mid-1950s at UT.

A strong contingent within the UT fan base believe that the Majors firing was the result of behind the scenes maneuvering on the part of Fulmer, Johnson, then-UT athletics director Doug Dickey and then-UT president Joe Johnson. The other strong contingent believes that Majors created his own problems in the summer of 1992 by, among other things, complaining about his current contract with UT during a preseason publicity tour across the state.