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1951 Champ Buddy Lyons Passes Away

Dec. 29, 2013

By Tom Mattingly
Knoxville News Sentinel

Vernon (Buddy) Lyons, starting left guard on the University of Tennessee's 1951 national championship team, died on Dec. 24 at his home in Corinth, Texas, after a long illness. He was 84.

A native of Greensboro, N.C., Mr. Lyons grew up in the Ocean View Beach area of Norfolk, Va., graduating from Granby High School in 1948.

Wearing No. 92 on his orange and white jersey, Mr. Lyons was part of Vol football teams compiling a 28-4-1 record from 1949-51, playing in the Cotton and Sugar Bowl games, and winning two national championships.

While listed at 6-feet,180 pounds, he actually played at 172. His thumbnail profile in the 1952 Sugar Bowl program termed him an "excellent downfield blocker."

"He was a smart player," recalled teammate Pat Shires. "I don't remember him ever being hurt where he missed a game."

Mr. Lyons was part of a smoothly blocking offensive line in 1951 -- Charley Stokes and Jim Haslam at the tackles, Mr. Lyons and John Michels at the guards, and Bob Davis at center -- that paved the way for tailback Hank Lauricella to gain a school-record 881 yards, a mark that stood until 1972.

"He wasn't a big man at all," said Lauricella, "but the coaching staff obviously believed in him. He played plenty of football. He did everything he was supposed to. He was consistent and played well."

Mr. Lyons always recalled Tennessee coach Gen. Robert R. Neyland telling him, "You'll never play football -- you're too light -- but I guarantee you'll graduate."

When Gen. Neyland further explained why he offered him a scholarship, he said, "I gave it to you because you reminded me of my favorite player, Bowden Wyatt."

Mr. Lyons did graduate from the University Tennessee with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration in 1953.

 

 

He was president of the Tennessee Monogram Club, vice-president of Student Government, and a member of Omicron Delta Kappa. He served one term as a Director on the University of Tennessee Athletics Board.

Mr. Lyons served as the company commander of the U.S. Army Transportation Corps in Wonju, South Korea, from 1953-54. He spent eight years in active duty and the reserves. He served as both a first and second lieutenant in active duty and then later as captain in the reserves.

He eventually settled in Albany, Ga., where he raised three children and owned Lyons Appliance and Lighting Fixtures for many years. He served a four-year term as a City Commissioner in Albany from 1966-70.

While there, he played an instrumental role in the development of a new city hall, a facility bearing a plaque in his honor today. He also was proud of his role as the Exalted Ruler of Elks Club 713 in Albany.

He spent his professional career largely in the appliance and lighting sales field working for such notable companies as GrayBar, Chrysler Airtemp, and Magic Chef. He and his wife, Joyce, started Lyons Company, a custom embroidery business in Corinth, in 1981. He retired in 1991.

Mr. Lyons had a keen mind for history and remembered every highway, restaurant, and hotel in the country due to his years in sales. He was an excellent cook, known for his deviled eggs and baked beans. He also loved talking about stocks and could quote anything written by Jim Kramer.

He is survived by his wife, Joyce, daughters Dee Lyons, Beverly Giddens and son Charles Lyons.

Services were held Saturday afternoon in Dallas.

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