UT assistant head football coach, Ed Orgeron, talks about moving Wes Brown in today's practice. Brown comments on the change and how practice has been going. Haslam Field, March 26, 2009. Watch »
UT head football coach, Lane Kiffin, speaks to the media following the 5th practice of Spring camp. Haslam Field, March 26, 2009 Watch »
Watch highlights from the Vols' fifth practice of Spring camp at Haslam Field, March 26, 2009. Watch »
It’s hard not to notice a Tennessee football legend walking onto the practice field after a 17-year absence.
Heads turned when former player and coach Johnny Majors was on the sidelines. Yet Thursday’s practice wasn’t the first time that Majors had been around the new-look Vols under first-year coach Lane Kiffin.
Before showing up at Thursday’s practice, Majors also took part in a recent staff meeting with Kiffin and his assistants.
“(He) kind of ran the staff meeting,” Kiffin joked. “I was supposed to be in charge. He just took over.
“It’s so neat to have him around: to be able to ask him some questions, to have him out there at practice and see the smile on his face after practice.”
Majors wasn’t just pleased with his return to practice; he was pleased with Kiffin’s practice.
Kiffin was hired to replace Phillip Fulmer, who was fired during a 5-7 season in 2009. Majors’ estrangement from UT began when he was replaced by his offensive coordinator, Fulmer, in 1992 after 16 seasons.
“I thought it was outstanding in every way.” Majors said of practice. “That’s the way football should be practiced.
“The tempo, the energy, the effort and the attitude was superb. There was a lot of continuous coaching going on from the time they got on the field to the time they left. Nobody was standing around, players or coaches.
“There wasn’t a dull moment.”
At one point during practice, Majors stepped onto the field and gave All-America safety Eric Berry a surprise greeting.
“I was behind him. He didn’t know who I was,” said Majors, who recruited Berry’s father, James Berry, to UT. “I said ‘Where did you learn to play football like you play football? Your dad, your mother or your grandmother?’
“He kind of grinned and slowly turned around and he said ‘Hello coach.’”
It was the first time Berry, who will be a junior this fall, met Majors, who was an All-American and the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 1956.
“It was kind of a shock,” Berry said of the meeting. “It was good finally meeting him and seeing what kind of person he is.”
“It feel pretty good, just seeing a legend in Tennessee history to be at practice and have a conversation with him. I heard a lot of great stories from my dad about him. It was a pleasure finally meeting him.”
Majors also had some advice for Berry.
“Just keep working hard and keep playing hard,” Berry said.
Kiffin walked with Majors from Haslam Field to the Neyland-Thompson Athletic Complex following practice. Kiffin and Majors were both headed off to another staff meeting.
“He was so excited about the tempo and energy at practice,” Kiffin said. “I wanted the whole staff to hear that.
“We’ve really welcomed him and love to have him around, him and his family, and it’s been great.”