Majors on retiring numbers

One of the most famous players in Tennessee football history is a bit surprised by the school's recent decision to retire the jersey numbers of three former Vol standouts.

Johnny Majors, an All-America single-wing tailback and Heisman Trophy runnerup in 1956, did a telephone interview at noon today with Tony Basilio of WVLZ Radio. Asked his reaction to the retiring of jersey numbers 16 (Peyton Manning), 91 (Doug Atkins) and 92 (Reggie White), Majors called the action "ususual, to say the least."

Prior to this week, UT's policy was to retire only jersey numbers of former Vols who died in military service to their country. Thus, four former players killed in World War II were the only honorees. Majors described that policy as "very fitting," adding that the decision to alter the policy "seems more like a modern marketing technique than honoring the tradition and success of Tennessee's great football tradition."

Several Vol greats were not considered as candidates to have their numbers retired because they did not distinguish themselves at the professional level. These include Majors (who played briefly in the Canadian Football League), Bob Suffridge and George Cafego, among others.

Majors declined to discuss his credentials for number retirement, noting that it would be "presumptuous, out of line and in poor taste to comment, as far as pertains to me individually."

Majors, who signed and coached Reggie White, spoke fondly of his former star. Majors called White "as great a football player as I've ever seen play defense -- at least his senior year. He was always a great talent but his senior year was as great as anybody could play. He was an outstanding talent his first three years but he was not quite as mentally tough and didn't overcome some minor injuries like he did his senior year. He was a fabulously great player."

Reports of friction between Majors and Atkins apparently are correct. When asked about the retirement of Atkins' jersey, Majors replied: "Doug was a great player … a great athlete and a great player. I don't have anything else to add on Doug Atkins. I don't have anything else to add on him whatsoever."


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