George Mooney, who was "Voice of the Vols" from 1952-67, died on Thursday night. He was 91,
In the spring of 1952 at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee football coach Robert Neyland asked Mooney to be the "Voice of the Vols." When the offer was made, Mooney did not hesitate.
"There was one answer to that. 'Absolutely. I'm going with the best.' I knew the reputation he had and what a great coach he was," Mooney told the News Sentinel in 2009.
There were hardly any televised games in those days, only 14 TV games out of 167, so Mooney's job was to convey the happenings on the field in as exciting a way as possible.
Saturday afternoons in those years meant Mooney's voice crackling over the airwaves from whatever radio was in vogue. Vol fans lived and died with his calls of many of the great moments of Tennessee history.
There was Nov. 7, 1959, Homecoming Day on the Hill. Tennessee versus LSU. Billy Cannon's name came up, and George was ready. Tennessee led 14-13 early in the fourth quarter, and LSU was going for two to retake the lead.
"That was a great play," Mooney said. "If Cannon had veered from the play and gone the other way, he could have walked into the end zone. He went to the right, but Tennessee's defense was set, and they still almost didn't stop him."
Then came memories of another UT legend, the "Swamp Rat," Dewey Warren, and the 1965 UCLA game.
"He wasn't the fastest guy in the world, and I thought he was never going to get to the end zone, but he made it. He always said, 'I made it, didn't I?' "
Mooney was one of Dewey's early fans, seeing Dewey's potential before anyone else did.
"They almost didn't play him. Dickey was experimenting at quarterback before the season. Bob Woodruff, Skeeter Bailey and I ran around together and were at practice. Dewey got a chance, and I said, 'That's my quarterback.' Dewey could pass that ball. He had a good group to work with."
Mooney worked with 1940 Vol All-America selection Bob Foxx from 1956-67.
"Bowden Wyatt called and asked if I would mind having a former teammate of his to be the 'color' man. He said he had Lou Gehrig's Disease, but he lasted 11 years. I'll never forget the first game we did, the Auburn game of 1956, when the Vols just mauled Auburn. I said 'Bob, we're going to have a great year.' "
Here's a sample of how it transpired with Mooney and Foxx on the air, Tennessee and Alabama, Oct. 16, 1965, at Legion Field.
Mooney: "Thirty-four seconds remain on the clock. Alabama has the ball on the 17- yard line, directly between the goalposts. David Ray set a national scoring record by the foot last year. He's kicked 9-of-9 extra points, 10-of-10 including today. They're going to pass the ball.
"Stabler has it. He goes down to the 10 to the 5, brought down at the 4-yard line and fumbles the ball. Let's see who recovered on the far side of the field. It didn't go out of bounds. The clock is running, 18, 17."
"They faked it and he ran to the Tennessee 3. It's fourth and goal at the Tennessee 3. They're lining up now. The ball is taken by Stabler. He throws the ball out of bounds with 6 seconds to go, but it was fourth down and apparently he didn't realize it."
Foxx: "Right. It was fourth down, and he didn't make it. It was 10-and-goal."
Mooney: "Tennessee takes over. Alabama didn't realize it was fourth down, and Stabler threw the ball away to stop the clock. David Ray was thinking he was going to have a chance."
Foxx: "He was practicing."
Mooney: "Alabama lost track of the downs. Tennessee has the ball, 6 seconds to go. That was a beautiful fake on third down by Stabler. They had the ball on the 17, but what the young quarterback and the rest of the team forgot was that they had been pushed back by Tennessee from inside the 10."
Foxx: "It was 10-and-goal."
Mooney: "Tennessee ball. Charley Fulton, the quarterback, takes it and the clock is going to run out. Tennessee and Alabama are going to tie. There it is. Tennessee 7, Alabama 7."