In 1936, Maj. Robert R. Neyland returned from a year of active Army duty for a second stint as head coach to rebuild his Volunteers squad. The same year, in the midst of a powerful 1935 freshman class, Bowden Wyatt began his storied relationship with Tennessee football team.
His sophomore year, the Vols were 6-2-2. The following year, they were 6-3-1. Then the domination started.
In 1938, Wyatt captained the Neyland-led troops to an 11-0 season while playing right end on a loaded Volunteers team that included Hall of Fame names such as Molinski, Suffridge and Cafego in the days of the two-way player. The Vols had six shutouts on the season. The final shutout capped the year with Wyatt manning the defensive line and kicking a field goal in Tennessee's 17-0 Orange Bowl victory over Oklahoma, the Vols' first official bowl game.
That 1938 season, Tennessee outscored its opponents 283-16. A touchdown by Clemson in the season's second game was the most any opponent could muster against the orange-clad defense led by Wyatt on the line. The season, along with the final two games of 1937, was the beginning of a 23-game win streak for Tennessee as both Neyland and Wyatt propelled the Vols to the top of the nation's football elite.
In the three years No. 37 was on the field, the Vols posted a 23-5-3 record, including the SEC championship in 1938 and a No. 2 final ranking. His leadership on the field earned Wyatt All-SEC and All-America status in 1938, repeating his All-SEC performance from his junior year.
Bowden Wyatt passed on the opportunity to become a movie star in Hollywood, choosing to continue his association with football in the coaching ranks after his stellar playing days at Tennessee.
He was an assistant coach at Mississippi State just one year after playing end for Maj. Robert R. Neyland's teams from 1936-38, and then served three years as a senior grade Lieutenant in the Navy.
Mirroring his coaching style and his career after Neyland, Wyatt took the head coaching job at Wyoming in 1947. He guided the Cowboys to consecutive Skyline championships in 1949-50. Wyatt was named conference coach of the year in 1950 thanks to a 10-0 record. He then moved to Arkansas for the 1953-54 seasons, again turning a program completely around. His second year saw him take the Hogs to an 8-3 record and a Southwest Conference championship, as well as conference coach of the year award.
But nothing could keep Wyatt away from his alma mater. He returned to coach Tennessee in 1955 and led the Vols to the 1956 SEC championship while being named SEC and National Coach of the Year. He was the first UT coach to be nationally honored by the American Football Coaches Association.
Wyatt accumulated a 99-56-5 coaching record in rebuilding three programs. He won titles in three different conferences - Skyline, Southwest and SEC - and was named coach of the year in all three. He became just the third member to be inducted into the hall as both player and coach, following the footsteps of Amos Alonzo Stagg and former Vols quarterback Bobby Dodd.