The history and tradition of Tennessee football began when Gen. Robert Reese 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 arena to stay.
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. 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 Hank Lauricella's 75-yard run against Texas in the 1951 Cotton Bowl.
Neyland's 1939 Vols were the last to shut out each of its regular season opponents. Over the course of his career, 112 of 216 opponents failed to score against his Tennessee teams and the Vols still own an NCAA record for holding opponents scoreless for 71 consecutive quarters.
Neyland's teams won Southern Conference titles 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 and Neyland's 21-year record at Tennessee was 173-31-12.
His legacy continues to live through his name on the football stadium, the indoor football complex and the road paralleling the Tennessee River.