Lee North, Tennessee football center of the early 1980s, has died at age 63. He twice won all-Southeastern Conference honors and was team captain as a senior.
“Lee was a great player and a better person,” said old Vol Chris Wampler, a defensive tackle on the 1981 team.
“He was my friend from the beginning,” said Glenn Streno, second-team center for one season, himself all-SEC in 1983. “He taught me a lot about the position. We stayed close all these years.”
Lee retired from Electro-Mechanical Corporation in 2021 and moved from Bristol to Louisville. He was an avid outdoorsman, especially enjoying golf and hunting. He, his sons and several former Alabama players went to South Dakota for a pheasant-hunting trip in October.
Old Vol David Moon said several former Volunteers were disillusioned that none in the Alabama contingent were wounded – despite encouragement.
Football provided many of the landmarks in North’s life. He was a prep star in Atlanta. He came to Tennessee as a highly regarded defensive tackle.
“He had bad knees,” said Phillip Fulmer, then offensive line coach on John Majors’ staff. “He was moved to center to protect those knees. It was a good move. Lee was outstanding.”
There is a treasured memory from North’s last college game, against Wisconsin in the Garden State Bowl. He dominated Badgers’ nose tackle Tim Krumrie.
Tennessee quarterback Steve Alatorre was named bowl MVP but Krumrie thought North was the main man. Krumrie said Lee cost him some money. He said North knocked him down a round or two in the NFL draft.
There were other highlights in that ’81 season. North was named the Vols’ most outstanding lineman. He received the Mickey O’Brien Award, presented to the senior who best exemplified courage and determination in overcoming physical obstacles.
North played in the Hula Bowl and Senior Bowl and logged 18 games with the Tampa Bay Bandits in the USFL. Steve Spurrier was the coach.
Fulmer was just a little older than North when they joined forces at Tennessee. They became forever friends.
“Lee was a wonderful, wonderful person. “
So said Streno.
“He had a lot of friends. He had a heart of gold. He was truly admired. He was a fitness freak. He would ride his bicycle 30 miles as if it was nothing.”
There was a stumbling block or two. North had both knees replaced.
A memorial service is planned for Friday, January 5, at 1 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Maryville. Lee is survived by wife Robin and sons Evan and Alec. His full obituary is here.
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