Statue honoring Gen. Neyland unveiled in front of stadium

Bob Neyland, son of Coach Robert Neyland, Gus Manning, UT Athletics Dept., and Hank Lauricella, former UT football player, unveil a statue depicting Robert Neyland, UT's winningest football coach and former athletic director, on Friday, Nov. 12, 2010. The statue, done by Utah artist Blair Buswell, is located between gates 15 and 17 at Neyland Stadium.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Bob Neyland, son of Coach Robert Neyland, Gus Manning, UT Athletics Dept., and Hank Lauricella, former UT football player, unveil a statue depicting Robert Neyland, UT's winningest football coach and former athletic director, on Friday, Nov. 12, 2010. The statue, done by Utah artist Blair Buswell, is located between gates 15 and 17 at Neyland Stadium.

UT unveils statue of Gen. R. Neyland

When the University of Tennessee Vols reach the end of their traditional Vol Walk before today's homecoming game, they will be greeted for the first time by the man who put the program on the map - Brig. Gen. Robert Neyland.

On Friday, the University of Tennessee unveiled a statue of Neyland, who became the Vols' head coach in 1926 - a position he held for 21 seasons with two interruptions for military service - and made the Vols the winningest team in the nation during his run.

Helping to unveil the statue, which was installed but remained covered since Wednesday evening, was Neyland's son Robert Neyland Jr.

"The Neyland family is experiencing a lot of emotion at this time, including pride and joy. But most of all the strongest emotion is gratitude," Neyland Jr. said.

He said the statue, which is double life-sized, stands 9 feet tall and weighs about 1,500 pounds, reminded him of when he and his brother, Lewis, misbehaved as children.

"When we did, we incurred Dad's discipline. Now as I look at that statue I think that when we did ... to us he was every bit as big," he said.

Gen. Neyland, who was known for his discipline on and off the field, had nine undefeated teams in 21 seasons, took the Vols to seven bowl games, won seven Southern Conference titles and one national championship and turned out more football proteges than any other coach. His record was 173 wins, 31 losses and 12 ties.

When he retired in 1952, he became UT's athletic director, the position he still held at the time of his death in 1962.

Neyland's statue, which resides at the stadium that bears his name between gates 15A and 17, was constructed by artist Blair Buswell and depicts Neyland in a kneeling position. Its concrete base features his famous seven game maxims engraved into the sides. It cost $385,000.

UT athletic director Mike Hamilton said the detail Buswell put into the statue produced the right representation of Neyland. Of the $125 million spent on stadium renovations to date, he added, the statue was the cherry on the top of the project.

"To me this was one of the most important pieces, to recognize the man whose name is on the stadium, and to have it done in such a professional and beautiful way is inspiring to all of us," Hamilton said.

Surrounding the statue as it was unveiled were students, Vols fans and some of Neyland's former players, including many from the 1951 championship team.

"I'm a little scared standing in front of him. I'm afraid he might jump out of it," said Jim Haslam, who played for Neyland, with a chuckle. "I tell you if Gen. Neyland were still here today, I'd still be nervous. It's a wonderful replica of the man who is Tennesee football."

Hank Lauricella, who played for Neyland for four seasons and was a Heisman Trophy runner-up, said the statue is a good resemblance of his former coach.

"It does the job. You know it's not him, but it's close enough that all you have to do is look at it and you say, 'That's him,' " he said. "It's thrilling to know that it's not going to be pictures anymore; it's going to be something for generations and generations. It's there for good now."

While the day centered on Neyland's accomplishments on the football field, Army Master Sgt. Mike Dougherty, UT's senior military instructor, was thinking about the general's service to his country.

A 1916 graduate of West Point, Neyland served in France during World War I. Following the war, he served as an aide to Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

After nine seasons coaching the Vols, Neyland was dispatched by the Army to the Panama Canal Zone in 1935.

A year later he retired from the Army and returned to Knoxville to coach the football team.

In 1941, with the U.S. involved in World War II, Neyland was called back into service. He spent the war years in Norfolk, Va., Dallas, China and India, rising to the rank of brigadier general. He returned to the Vols in 1946.

"He's one of us. He started off as an ROTC instructor, so anything dealing with Gen. Neyland is important to us because it's part our history, part of our lineage," Dougherty said.

Dougherty said he believes part of Neyland's success on the football field came from his military background. Having a statue of Neyland on campus, he said, personalizes the man for whom the stadium was named.

"I think the civilians, who don't have that military background, now they get an idea of who the individual is and what this is all about," he said. "If anything it'll drive them to learn a little bit more about what he was."

Lydia X. McCoy may be reached at 865-342-6250.

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Comments » 14

BillyVol writes:

Will see you tomorrow General.

GlobalWarmer writes:

At a time of such uncertainty in our beloved Vol football program, the Neyland statue hits the spot. Remembering past glory and those who brought it to Tennessee football is a pacifier that we will need until those days are restored. Thanks, General. We hope we don't let you down.

BigVolFaninSC writes:

WOW! I wish I could see it up close! It's fitting that it was unveiled the day after Veteran's Day! Thanks to all who have served and are serving! Now, let's make sure we send those Rebs packing tomorrow!

Brillovol writes:

In my opinion, this statue was the most important part of the stadium renovations. Come to think of it, why didn't we have this before? Money well spent on a tribute to Mr. UT football.

Sweet_T writes:

Credit to Mike Hamilton for overseeing great renovation work and a tremendous memorial to Gen. Neyland. Neyland Stadium truly is the greatest place to watch a college football game in the country, and it will surely remain so for a long time to come.

Fulton_Vol writes:

It is most fitting that General Neyland's statue be unveiled this week. He showed with his actions that he was man of highest honor by putting his life and career as a coach on hold twice to serve his country when needed. He may not have been a Tennessean by birth but he emulates the very best of the Volunteer spirit. Thank you, sir and thank you to every veteran for your service to the USA.

Wow, this is pose I had hope they would use of General Neyland. This is a great addition to Tennessee football.

TitanandVolfan4life writes:

This is 1 Marine that will always salute the General and be thankful for all he did for our great nation as well as UT football.

GO BIG ORANGE!!!

ACWLY writes:

I very much appreciate and honor the General, but I realisticly wonder.. had the General had the choice of funding 100 or more scholorships versus having a statue placed in his honor, which one would he have preferred? But the fact is it wasn't the General's decision, in that regard I think UT has done a wonderful thing in honoring such a great Tennessean!

ETNTigerFan writes:

That actually looks really cool. Good timing too. Near Veteran's Day and on Homecoming.

TrueVol70 writes:

Larger than life...just like the man!

A fantastic addition to the stadium.

topgun writes:

An old "NAM vet, F-4 driver says, "Thank you General. You were a great American and all Tennesseans and VOLS should be very proud. God speed!!"

GOVOLS...Beat the bears.

spacehistorian writes:

It is great to see the University honor General Neyland with this beautiful statue. I think showing him kneeling works well as it brings him closer to the admiring fans as well as shows him deep in thought working on yet another brilliant strategy for our beloved Volunteers. Honoring one of the greatest coaches of all-time this statue is a wonderful addition to the renovation of the stadium named in his honor. It is also appropriate to acknowledge his service to our nation in a time of war. In his era it wasn't unusual for Americans from every walk of life, rich, poor, city boy or country boy to leave their home, family and job to serve our nation during war. Gen. Neyland would have not thought himself exceptional in this regard as he felt it was the right thing to do. This statue honors not only this great man, coach and officer, it honors that generation of Americans who were the foundation of the nation we inherited and were entrusted to support so Gen. Neyland's legacy will still be there as a guide for future generations of Volunteers and Americans. A great addition to the rich Tennessee Tradition. Nice short Bio on the General at http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/imag....

Now for selfish reasons, I would love to see a statue of "The Voice of the Vols" John Ward be erected on campus. You can't spell Tradition without the Big Orange Power "T."

dmclain writes:

in response to WaltGoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

If you were a boy like me, and would have met the General on his knee, you would have thought he was the tallest and strongest person in the world. Thanks General.

TKO writes:

in response to WaltGoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

And you are an embarrassment.

Main and Vine
Kissimmee , FL

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