Salute the Vols of ‘67

Marvin Westwestwords

How strange that a great Tennessee football success story started and ended wrong.

Fifty years and a few weeks ago, the Volunteers opened in sunny, southern California and lost to UCLA because they failed to tackle Gary Beban. The orange built a winner atop the disappointment.

The 1967 team was reshaped during the return flight. Defensive coaches huddled and asked each other what can we do. I was there, one row away.

P.W. Underwood thought the answer was sophomore linebacker Jack Reynolds.

Doug Knotts, defensive coordinator, issued a fair warning: If you take out Nick Showalter and put in Reynolds, you better be right – or you’ll be somewhere else.

Doug Dickey had personally recruited Showalter from Kingsport. The head coach and many others liked everything about Nick except his size. He was very quick, mentally and physically. He simply wasn’t big enough for the position.

Underwood’s next challenge was to persuade Reynolds that he could play. Jack didn’t believe he was ready. I believe he was actually afraid – of failing.

An open date gave the coaches extra time to push and polish and make it happen. Dickey conducted very demanding practices. Indeed, the defense improved. Reynolds learned. Steve Kiner became famous. The offense performed as expected. A gritty line, led by center Bob Johnson, rubbed grass stain on opponents’ backsides.

Tennessee won nine in a row. It rose to No. 2 in the rankings. Litkenhous used a secret mathematical formula to proclaim the Volunteers national champions. Dickey was awarded genius status. You can look it up.

This story would be better if the Orange Bowl had ended better. The Vols started sluggishly. Oklahoma, very strong, was up 19-0 at halftime. The Vols stormed back. Karl Kremser missed the winning field goal.

One of the greatest teams (in the truest sense of the word) in UT sports history will be golden anniversary honorees this weekend – fellowship, golf, dinner, tall tales, one more appearance on the green, green grass of Shields-Watkins Field, one more round of robust applause (I hope), in appreciation of good times.

Dickey says he will attend. Walter Chadwick, not what he used to be, once given up for dead when an armored money truck ran over his VW bug, plans to be here. It was Chadwick who lofted the shot-put pass to Ken DeLong that stunned Alabama.

Expect Johnson and Kiner. Look for Dewey Warren and Richmond Flowers and Charlie Rosenfelder and Dick Williams and Jim McDonald and Jim Weatherford and Albert Dorsey and Elliott Gammage and Jimmy Glover and Mike Jones, once the star on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Many others will be part of the show. Alas and alas, some really good guys are gone. In their place are marvelous memories.

Tennessee 1967 scored twice as many points as it permitted. It won the SEC title.

It warmed up with victories over Auburn and Georgia Tech. Tennessee whipped Alabama. Bubba Wyche became a household name when Warren and Charlie Fulton were injured. Weatherford played Denis Homan tough and tight. Kiner put the pads to Snake Stabler. Dorsey celebrated a very happy birthday with three picks.

The Vols had a hard time with LSU. They were more convincing in Memphis against Ole Miss. I remember Kentucky. The Swamp Rat threw TD passes to Bill Baker and Flowers for an early lead. Jones got a late interception. Kremson connected on a field goal that sealed the deal.

The Vols ripped Vandy, 41-14. Ah yes, those were the days.

Dickey was “coach of the year” for the second time in three years. Johnson was the SEC’s best blocker. Kiner ran down running backs from side to side. All three are in the College Hall of Fame.

This really good group of men will be back in town one more time. Promise them you’ll never forget.

Marvin West invites reader reaction. His address is

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