Ultimate Volunteers

Tennessee football fans will never forget the exploits of Gene McEver, Beattie Feathers, George Cafego, Bob Suffridge, Hank Lauricella, Doug Atkins, Johnny Majors, Steve Kiner, Reggie White and Peyton Manning. They helped their school win dozens of football games.

More importantly, however, Tennessee fans MUST never forget the contributions of Bill Nowling, Rudy Klarer, Will Tucker and Clyde Fuson. They helped their country win a war, making the ultimate sacrifice in the process.

In addition to retiring the jersey numbers of these four heroes, the University memorializes them in the Hall of Fame exhibit and with a sign inside Neyland Stadium.

Any day is a good day to remember Nowling, Klarer, Tucker and Fuson – four Vols who died serving America in World War II. Still, there is no better day than Memorial Day. That said, here is a brief look at each of the four young men who epitomize the word "Volunteer" in its truest sense.

Bill Nowling, No. 32. A three-year starter (1940-42) at fullback, he helped Gen. Robert Neyland's 1940 team win a Southeastern Conference title and some national championship recognition. Tennessee lost just four games during Nowling's three-year varsity career. Originally from St. Petersburg, Fla., he died Aug. 9, 1944, one day after celebrating his 24th birthday.

Rudy Klarer, No. 49. After serving as a reserve guard in 1941, Klarer won a starting job in '42. After helping Tennessee win the 1943 Sugar Bowl, he left immediately for Officer's Training at the Fort Benning (Ga.) Army Base. Originally from Louisville, Ky., Klarer would achieve the rank of 2nd Lieutenant and platoon leader while stationed in Germany. Killed in action on Feb. 6, 1945 at the tender age of 21, he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.

Willis Tucker, No. 61. A reserve center and guard for the 1939 team that went unbeaten, untied and unscored-upon, Tucker lettered for the '40 squad. Tennessee lost just two games during his two varsity seasons – both of them bowl games. A Knoxville native, he also starred as a sprinter for the UT track team. Tucker was 26 years old when he was killed Nov. 28, 1944 in Germany just prior to the Battle of the Bulge.

Clyde "Ig" Fuson, No. 62. A native of Middlesboro, Ky., Fuson shared time with Nowling at fullback on the 1942 team that went 9-1-1. The team won its last seven games, beating favored Tulsa in the Sugar Bowl. He enlisted in the Army in 1943 and was killed in action in Germany on Dec. 4, 1944 while serving with the 84th Infantry. He was 21.


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