Mattingly: Kozar was more than a football player at UT

University of Tennessee football player Andy Kozar, a running back on the 1951 national championship team, later earned doctorate and became a UT professor in Department of Health and Exercise Science. Photo from November 8, 1959.

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University of Tennessee football player Andy Kozar, a running back on the 1951 national championship team, later earned doctorate and became a UT professor in Department of Health and Exercise Science. Photo from November 8, 1959.

When you look at the life and influence of Dr. Andrew Joseph Kozar, the one term that does not apply is “one-dimensional.”

He was not “just” an athlete, not “just” a scholar, not “just” an author. He was all that … and much more.

Former News Sentinel sports editor Marvin West, always a perceptive observer of the human condition, called him a “class gentleman.”

Andy was a good friend to all of us who knew him, a man who gave of himself bountifully to others.

Kozar died Thursday. He was 79.

He loved the craft of research and writing, the art of putting pen to paper, in later years seeing words eventually arrive on the computer screen in a coherent fashion.

Tennessee fans know him as part of Tennessee’s run to glory during his career that spanned 1950-52, that final season being cut short by injury.

He played fullback wearing No. 86, yet was bigger than most everybody else on the team, save Doug Atkins. Opposing defenses had to have hated seeing him coming, either as a blocker or with the football under his arm.

The backfield of Kozar, Hank Lauricella, Jimmy Hahn, and Bert Rechichar is one of the most heralded in Vol history.

He had the game-winning scores against Alabama in 1950 and Texas in the 1951 Cotton Bowl. His career stats included 27 touchdowns and a 5.2-yard average. He had 1,837 yards rushing in 29 games.

He often told the story how the University of Texas band was outside the Vol dressing room at the Cotton Bowl, Jan. 1, 1951, playing the “Eyes of Texas.” He recalled coach Bob Neyland saying that, after the game, they’d be playing the “Tennessee Waltz.”

His career after college included a stint in the Army and time professionally with the Chicago Bears.

When he turned his attention back to academic pursuits, he did so with a passion, as he did everything else, earning a master’s (1957) and Ph.D. (1961) at the University of Michigan.

He would become one of the most influential faculty members ever at Tennessee, from his time as head of the men’s physical education program through his tenure in the exercise science department, working his way to being named a University Professor.

After six year’s research, he authored “Football as a War Game: The Annotated Journals of Gen. R.R. Neyland.”

It was well researched, well written, and well received

When you think about it, Neyland and Kozar shared one common characteristic, a search for knowledge and life experiences well beyond the parameters of the gridiron.

When the first “Tennessee Vault” book was being written, Andy offered numerous helpful suggestions. He also shared his collection of sports books and memorabilia.

His fingerprints are all over that book. To say he was “helpful” would be an understatement. It couldn’t have happened without his assistance.

When he remembered his Tennessee football career in “Six Seasons Remembered: The National Championship Years of Tennessee Football,” penned by Haywood Harris and Gus Manning, Andy remembered the influence his head coach had on him.

“What I’ll remember most about Neyland was that he taught us how to live,” he said.

“He was always a sea of calm. We would be nervous about how a game was going, or about anything else, and he was always the same. People who knew him said he could have been anything he wanted to be in the way of a career, and he chose coaching. That was the University of Tennessee’s great luck."

The same could be said for Andy Kozar.

He could have been anything he wanted to be, done anything he wanted to do with his life, but chose to share his talents and abilities with the University of Tennessee.

When someone writes the next definitive history of the University of Tennessee, Andy’s name will be prominent among those who have influenced its growth and development.

Tom Mattingly is a freelance contributor.

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Comments » 3

FWBVol writes:

Well said, Tom. Andy Kozar's influence will be felt at the University of Tennessee as long as they hold classes on that Hallowed Hill.

robsanders#281934 writes:

Good work, Tom. I was lucky enough to be mentored and learn from Dr. Kozar for a couple of years. To sit in the seat that Peyton Manning previously sat in was an honor and to learn from a great man such as Dr. Kozar was an invaluable asset to my life. When Dr. Kozar talked of General Neyland teaching him how to live, Dr. Kozar taught the same philosophy and had that impact on me to encourage my future post-college. He will be missed dearly and I am glad to have known him well. Thanks, Rob Sanders; B.S. Education 2002

Ralph_Crampton writes:

When Vol Running back ran wild in the Cotton bowl on new years day in 1951 against mighty Texas. The victory brought heaps of praise nationally to the Vols it was probably the biggest win for Tennessee in many years. Yes, that running back was Andy Kozar the bulldozer-like power runner. At his best Kozar probably weighed around 212 lbs, and stood just under six feet tall. in his later years he played handball, racketball to stay in shape and Neyland once said he was one of the strongest kids he ever saw who could run over bigger opponents...his physical appearance did not indicate he was a human dynamo...until one clashed with him.

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