Atkins' No. 91 to be retired

Tennessee football legend Doug Atkins will have his No. 91 retired during an on-field ceremony prior to Saturday's UT-Vanderbilt game. Fans are encouraged to arrive at the stadium early so they can be part of this special ceremony, which is slated to begin at approximately 12:05 p.m.

"I'm very honored the university is retiring my number," Atkins said. "I always enjoyed my playing days at the University of Tennessee."

Atkins is considered by many to be the greatest defensive end in football history. He's the only player in school history to be enshrined in both the NFL and College halls of fame. After his playing career concluded, UT previously honored him in a ceremony by proclaiming Sept. 11, 1976, "Doug Atkins Day."

After originally signing with UT on a basketball scholarship and dabbling in the high jump with the track and field squad, Atkins went on to gridiron All-America status in 1952, was the only player to be unanimously named to the All-SEC Quarter Century Team (1950-74) and was selected SEC Player of the Quarter Century. Tennessee went 29-4-1 and won the 1951 national championship with Atkins at defensive end.

Atkins retired with 205 NFL games played, a record at the time for a defensive lineman. Atkins made life hard for offensive linemen for 17 NFL seasons. He began his pro career in Cleveland and played two seasons. Atkins made his biggest splash with the Chicago Bears, where he played 12 seasons. No less authority than George "Papa Bear" Halas called Atkins "the greatest defensive end who ever played the game."

Atkins wrapped up his career with a three-year stop in New Orleans. He played in four world's championship games (pre-Super Bowl) and on two NFL title teams, the 1953 Browns and the 1963 Bears. He played in the Pro Bowl nine times. Atkins won the 1968 Vince Lombardi Award for dedication to the game.

Earlier this year, Reggie White's No. 92 was retired at the Oct. 1 Mississippi game and Peyton Manning's No. 16 was retired at the Oct. 29 South Carolina game.

The Volunteers previously retired jersey numbers 32, 49, 61 and 62 in 1946 in memory of four UT players who died in World War II.

Bill Nowling (Aug. 8, 1920-Aug. 9, 1944), a fullback from St. Petersburg, Fla., wore number 32. Nowling was a three-year starter from 1940-42 under Gen. Robert Neyland and John Barnhill.

Number 49 was worn by Rudy Klarer (March 9, 1923-Jan. 6, 1945), a reserve guard in 1941 and starter in 1942. Klarer hailed from Louisville, Ky.

Willis Tucker (May 10, 1918-Nov. 28, 1944) wore number 61. The Knoxville High School graduate earned a Vols football letter in 1940 and was a sprint star on the UT track and field team.

Number 62 was worn by Clyde "Ig" Fuson (March 11, 1923-Dec. 4, 1944), a Middlesboro, Ky., native and fullback on the 1942 team who shared playing time with Nowling. Fuson had a younger brother, Herschel "Ug" Fuson, who was a freshman on the 1942 team and transferred to Army, where he graduated.

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