Celebrating Neyland's Birth, 120 Years Ago Today

The General, Robert Reese Neyland was born 120 years ago today on Feb. 17, 1892.  

The history and tradition of Tennessee football began under the tutelage of Gen. Robert Reese Neyland, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Neyland came to Tennessee as an ROTC instructor and backfield coach in 1925 and was named head football coach in 1926. From that date, Tennessee was in the college football business to stay. Neyland's 1939 Vol team was the last to shut out each of its regular season opponents. 

Over the course of his career, 112 of his 216 opponents failed to score against his Tennessee teams. Tennessee still holds an NCAA record for holding opponents scoreless 71 consecutive quarters. Neyland's teams won Southern Conference Championships in 1927 and 1932, piling up undefeated streaks of 33 and 28 games along the way, and SEC Championships in 1938, 1939, 1940, 1946 and 1951. 

In addition Neyland coached teams won four national championships. The Vols were consensus national champions in 1951, won the Dunkel, Litkenhous, Boand, Houlgate and Poling National Championships in 1938, the Dunkel and Williamson crowns in 1940 and the DeVold and Dunkel crowns in 1950. It was Gene McEver who kicked off the Neyland era with his 98-yard return of the opening kickoff in the 1928 Alabama game, a game the underdog Vols won, 15-13. Each of his succeeding eras would be highlighted by similar big plays: Johnny Butler's 56-yard run against Alabama in 1939 and Lauricella's 75-yard run against Texas in the 1951 Cotton Bowl. Neyland's 21-year record at Tennessee was 173 wins, 31 losses and 12 ties. 

Neyland, who came to Tennessee as an Army captain and left as a brigadier general, brought one of the most efficient single-wing offenses in the country to go with an unyielding defense. He was brought to the head coaching position by Dean Nathan Dougherty with a simple injunction: "Do something about the series with Vanderbilt." 

After Neyland's death in 1962, the University established the Robert R. Neyland Scholarship, academic scholarships awarded to non-athletes, many of whom are National Merit Scholars. The endowment for these scholarships now exceeds $1.5 million and 124 students have been the beneficiary of the awards. 

The thoroughfare behind the stadium's South end, once called the river road, is now named Neyland Drive. More recently, the Vol football complex on campus was named for Neyland and Knoxville businessman B. Ray Thompson.

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