Soft, polite suggestion for new athletics director John Currie: Please consider an honors program and a pat on the back for the football Volunteers of 50 years ago.
Do a bunch of us a small favor. Bring back the 1967 team for a wonderful weekend reunion while coach Doug Dickey and most of the players can still walk. Choose an early date when the weather is likely to be spectacular. Choose a game that might not sell out. Ol’ Vols have marketing experience.
Offer a round of golf and maybe a Friday night dinner, Vol Network clips and story time, questions and answers, open to the public. Old fans would fondly remember the good times and young fans would be intrigued by the sight of a real, live Swamp Rat.
Such an event might even turn a profit. This could come as a shock but I would consider paying to see it. You are correct, that would be amazing after a lifetime of free passes.
Maybe you have heard that those Vols of ’67 were champions. One more appearance on Shields-Watkins Field, one more wave to the crowd, one last rousing ovation sure would be fun for us and them.
Long, long ago, without any fancy slogans or even a hint of brashness, Dickey said his fourth year would be special. It was.
Alas, it started poorly. Tennessee couldn’t tackle Gary Beban and lost at UCLA. Tennessee won nine in a row. Big names – Auburn, Georgia Tech, LSU – took chops on the chin.
On the third Saturday in October, in downtown Birmingham, the Vols defeated Alabama, 24-13. The original Swamp Rat, Dewey Warren, was injured. Charley Fulton, logical replacement, couldn’t go. Unheralded Bubba Wyche played quarterback.
Richmond Flowers had six receptions. Steve Kiner made several big hits. Jimmy Weatherford was a shut-down corner. Albert Dorsey captured three Ken Stabler passes, a deflection, a rebound and a pick six.
Walter Chadwick dived over the line for one Tennessee touchdown and threw the most beautiful left-handed shot-put pass you’ll ever see – to Kenny DeLong, lonesome tight end in the end zone. Karl Kremser kicked six points.
In the middle of November, Tennessee ended eight years of Ole Miss monopoly. The Vols defeated Kentucky in Lexington. They walloped Vanderbilt. They won the SEC championship, first since 1956.
The Litkenhous magic mathematical formula – strength of schedule, margin of victory, score comparisons and maybe temperature and humidity – said Tennessee was national champ. The AP said O.J. Simpson and Southern Cal. Oklahoma said Oklahoma after the Sooners nipped the Vols in the Orange Bowl. We aren’t going there today.
Dickey said the 1967 assembly was the epitome of a team – major contributions from many different players.
There was a great offensive line. Center Bob Johnson was an All-American, an academic All-American and the second pick in the NFL draft. Guard Charles Rosenfelder and tackle John Boynton won all-conference honors.
Flowers and Richard Pickens had special seasons. Chadwick scored 11 touchdowns. Kiner hit and hurt people, sideline to sideline. Defensive tackle Dick Williams and linebacker Jack Reynolds performed especially well.
“I think a lot of players on that ’67 team played better than they were,” said Dickey, coach of the year.
Paul “Bear” Bryant gave Dickey this touch of perspective: “Your great players have to play great and your average players have to play real good. That’s the secret to being a great coach.”
Lasting memories were made by those 1967 Vols – Elliott Gammage, Joe Graham, Derrick Weatherford, Jimmy Glover, Rick Marino, Herman Weaver, Terry Dalton, Neal McMeans, Jim McDonald, Mike Jones, on and on.
Let us celebrate their success. Let us never forget. Amen.
I suppose most of you knew that Tennessee played football before Joshua and even Peyton.
(Marvin West invites reader reaction. His new address is [email protected])