Lovie Smith and Gen. Robert R. Neyland of the University of Tennessee....
Lovie Smith and General Robert R. Neyland of the University of Tennessee: Two Coaches Deeply Intertwined through History’s Lessons
By Jonathan Henderson
May 11, 2012
Special for DaBears.com
http://www.chattanoogan.com/photos/2...cle.222543.jpg (To the left: General Robert R. Neyland, former head football coach at the University of Tennessee from 1926-1952, standing with his right hand placed on the shoulder of Vols' All-American running back Hank Lauricella at the 1951 Cotton Bowl Classic. He won seven SEC titles [1927, 1931, 1938-'40, 1946, and 1951] and four National Championships [1938, 1940, 1950, 1951].)
From 1926-1952, save for the 1935 and 1941-45 seasons when he was away on military duty, General Robert R. Neyland made University of Tennessee football into a national and regional power to be reckoned with along with the other dominant college football programs of the day (Notre Dame, Michigan, Alabama, and USC). Neyland finished his career at Tennessee with a record of 173-31-12, good for a .829 winning percentage. He won seven Southeastern Conference titles (1927; 1931; 1938-’40; 1946; 1951) and four National Championships (1938, 1940, 1950, 1951). One of his most famous All-Americans was none other than the great Beattie Feathers, who was so honored as a Consensus All-American in 1933. Feathers would go on to play for the Chicago Bears from 1934-’37, become the first player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, as well as set a record that remains unbroken for most yards gained per rushing attempt at 8.4 yards per carry, both of which were accomplished in his rookie season of 1934.
In the storied history of Tennessee football, scores of talented players have come through who have gone onto the NFL. While all of the Volunteers’ (Vols for short) players were no doubt talented at their craft, some were more blessed than others. That being said, every player since the days of General Neyland has heard the traditional pregame reading of Neyland’s “Seven Game Maxims” which he coined in order to prepare his troops for the rigors of battle on the rough and tumble gridiron. These maxims are as follows:
1. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win.
2. Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way - SCORE.
3. If at first the game - or the breaks - go against you, don’t let up… put on more steam.
4. Protect our kickers, our quarterback, our lead and our ball game.
5. Ball, oskie, cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle… for this is the WINNING EDGE.
6. Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made.
7. Carry the fight to our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes.
These maxims have led the “Big Orange” to being one of the truly great programs in the history of college football. The stadium at Shields-Watkins Field seats 102,455 screaming Vol fans, and is named “Neyland Stadium” in his honor.
Now, fast forward to 1993, and an aspiring young assistant coach named Lovie Smith is working his way up the rank-and-file of the coaching ladder. From 1993-1994, under the direction of former UT head coach Phillip Fulmer, Smith worked as the team’s defensive backs coach. He had come from a rather modest background in being the defensive coordinator at Big Sandy High School in Big Sandy, Texas and would spend two more years in Tulsa, Oklahoma, working at Cascia Hall Preparatory School as the assistant coach as well as being responsible for mentoring young players at the defensive back and wide receiver positions. Then, the next ten seasons would see him coaching at a wide variety of locations, ranging from the University of Tulsa for four years to Wisconsin for one season, and to Arizona State for four years followed by the University of Kentucky as linebacker coach before his stop at the University of Tennessee.
http://www.chicagosportsaddict.com/w...ovie-smith.jpg (To the left: Current Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith, who served as defensive backs coach at the University of Tennessee duirng the 1993 and 1994 season under former Vol head coach Phillip Fulmer.)
No doubt that at each and every location, he picked up valuable experience on his way to becoming the head coach of the Bears. At Tennessee, as was mentioned above, General Neyland’s “Seven Game Maxims” are read in the locker room before every game. And no doubt that Smith, ever the quiet student of the game, developed some of his game strategies from those Maxims. For instance, the Bears make a lot of breaks for themselves by creating takeaways against their opponents. Since Smith has been coach in Chicago, his teams have created more takeaways than any other team in the NFL. Also, the Bears have the best kick returning game in the league in the combination of Devin Hester and Johnny Knox, who both give the Bears great field position as well as are always threats to score. When the Bears turn the ball over less than their opponents, they almost always win. And Smith’s insistence that all of his players know how to properly tackle and how to take proper pursuit angles satisfies the General’s fifth maxim. The Bears bring the heat all 60 minutes of the game, and no matter what the outcome is in each game, fans and players alike leave their seats secure in the knowledge that their beloved team put forth its best effort. Thus, they carried the fight to their opponents.
There is one area in which Lovie Smith has failed to address as head coach, and that is the offensive line. Maxims number four and five call for protecting the quarterback and to block. This is an area in which the Bears have performed poorly over the past five years. In 2010, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked nine times in the first half against the New York Giants before having to leave the game with a concussion from his head being slammed against the turf. He would miss the following week’s game against the Carolina Panthers, but would fortunately return to finish a successful season in leading the charge toward the run at the NFC Championship. Smith MUST address this issue as soon as possible, particularly if the line continues to struggle this year.
Lovie Smith shares a unique history which echoes of the past have bestowed upon him, in no small part due to the fact that he learned those “Seven Maxims” of Neyland’s, a rich breadth of football knowledge that helps him teach the fundamentals of the game to his ballplayers as he sets out every year in the pursuit of a Super Bowl ring. Of course, there were other influences; certainly he picked up valuable knowledge from his time at Tulsa, Arizona State, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Ohio State, with Tony Dungy at Tampa Bay and with Mike Martz at St. Louis. Still, as a loyal Vol fan and alumnus of the University of Tennessee, I really like to think that the school and athletic department left a lasting impression in his mind. For all intents and purposes, this most certainly happened, because his game plans have always called for attention to detail, maximum effort, and the execution of the game plan to perfection. For this, Lovie Smith is special. He has brought yet another quote hanging above the door in the locker room at Neyland Stadium to life: “I will give my all for Tennessee.”
Certainly, his players give their all for the city of Chicago on Sundays in fall. Smith learned from the master well.