June 15, 2010
Ike Peel, who was a multi-sport player and coach at Tennessee during the middle of the previous century and was the last living member of Gen. Robert R. Neyland's final football coaching staff of 1952, died Sunday in Dyersburg. He was 91.
Peel first played for Neyland on two of the legendary coach's finest teams -- the 1939 squad that was undefeated and unscored on in the regular season, and the 1940 unit that captured the national championship. Both teams were Southeastern Conference champions and compiled perfect regular season marks of 10-0.
After playing his final season under head coach John Barnhill, the Dyersburg native began his coaching career as UT's assistant freshman coach in 1942. He served as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Infantry from 1943-45 and was part of the first wave ashore at France on D-Day. After the war, Peel returned to his beloved Vols as backfield coach from 1945-48, and then again from 1952-53.
Neyland's final season of his 21 years as head coach was 1952. The oldest living member of any Neyland coaching staff is Murray Warmath, who is 97 and lives in the Minneapolis area. Warmath coached at Tennessee from 1935-48.
Peel from 1949-51 expertly coached the freshman football team and scouted opponents. It was during this memorable period in Big Orange history that the 1950 Vols beat heavily-favored Texas 20-14 in the Cotton Bowl, and the 1951 Vols won the national championship. A very versatile athlete and coach, Peel also played baseball for three years in college, was head baseball coach in 1947 among his five years on the diamond staff, and was wrestling coach at the school when his team went undefeated in 1943.
Peel was a 1935, 1936 and 1937 "Gold Football" recipient at Dyersburg High School and played on the prestigious West Tennessee All-Star team after his senior season.
In 1953, Peel returned to Dyersburg and was very active in many community activities, serving with distinction as president of the High School Boosters Club, president of the Finley Lions Club, a member of the County Planning Commission and as a member of the Dyersburg Country Club, Moose Lodge and American Legion. The retired farmer enjoyed playing golf four or five times a week and served as president of the Senior Golf Association of West Tennessee.
Peel was inducted in 1992 to the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.
Services in Dyersburg are Monday at 10 a.m. Central time in the Chapel of Curry Funeral Home. Interment will follow in Fairview Cemetery. Curry Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. The Peel family will receive visitors Sunday from 5-8 p.m. at the funeral home.
Honorary Pallbearers include former Vols player and head coach Johnny Majors.
"Ike Peel was a very special man who affected all the lives of the 1953 freshman team," said Majors, a member of that class. "Invariably when we get together as teammates, we bring up Ike Peel stories with fond remembrances.
"He was a tough, hard-nosed and demanding coach who also had a great sense of humor. He made an indelible mark on us that has lasted and will continue to last as long as we will live."
Survivors include a daughter, Becky Peel Cupples, of Clinton; son, Ike Peel III; and wife, Vicky, of Dyersburg; three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife of 53 years, Judy Peel.
The family requests that memorials be directed to the Community Cancer Fund, P.O. Box 1002, Dyersburg, TN 38025-1002.