Phillip Fulmer, 1997 Tennessee team honored

ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL
The 1997 Tennessee football team poses for a photo before the game against Alabama at Neyland Stadium on Saturday. The team along with  former coach Phillip Fulmer were honored.

Photo by Adam Brimer

ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL The 1997 Tennessee football team poses for a photo before the game against Alabama at Neyland Stadium on Saturday. The team along with former coach Phillip Fulmer were honored.

Former coach Phillip Fulmer and his wife Vicki during a pre-game ceremony honoring his induction into the College Hall of Fame prior to Tennessee's game against Alabama Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012 in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Michael Patrick, copyright © 2012

Former coach Phillip Fulmer and his wife Vicki during a pre-game ceremony honoring his induction into the College Hall of Fame prior to Tennessee's game against Alabama Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012 in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL)

Ah, the good old days.

Those memories were rekindled Saturday night when Tennessee's 1997 SEC championship team and former coach Phillip Fulmer were honored before the game against Alabama in Neyland Stadium.

Many of Fulmer's players from the '97 team, including quarterback Peyton Manning, surrounded him when he was introduced pregame on the field. Highlights from the '97 season were shown on the JumboTron.

Fans roared with approval during the presentation.

"It was a great night," Fulmer said as he walked off the field. "We enjoyed (Friday) night with the '97 team, and today's been a thrill. It is absolutely fantastic."

Manning was able to sum up the moment in a few words.

"It was great," Manning said as security guards and police swept him away.

Other former players from the '97 team were more than glad to talk about Fulmer, who was presented a plaque for his upcoming induction into the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame during the pregame ceremony.

"Very well deserving," said Jeff Hall, place-kicker from 1995-98. "All of us here know he should still be coaching right now, and we know we'd be winning, and we know that the tradition would continue, and the tradition is going to continue. It's going to.

"It's nice to be around (Fulmer). Of course, it would be nicer if he was on the sidelines, I think, but things change, and he is well deserving of this award, and we're just all proud of him."

Fulmer, born in Winchester, Tenn., played offensive guard for the Vols (1968-71) and was a coach for the Vols from 1980-2008. He took over as head coach during the 1992 season and remained in that position until he was fired late in the 2008 season.

It was a move that stung many of Fulmer's players and his supporting fans.

"He deserves this and so much more," said Bill Duff, defensive tackle on the '97 team. "In my opinion, he never deserved to be fired, and I think a lot of people feel that way about his situation. Of course, I was a Fulmer guy, so Coach Fulmer to me is why Tennessee was as successful as they were, and we really need to get back to have that kind of program."

Duff was a member of the 1995 team that started a streak of seven consecutive victories against Alabama.

UT beat the Tide 41-14 in Birmingham in 1995, and the next year the Vols got some bulletin board material that would remain for years.

"Bama was our first hurdle, and I remember beating Alabama down there (in '95)," Duff said, "and I remember Alabama coming back to us, and then we heard their players walked the field and their players said, 'We need to make this our home field again.'

"It was that moment in my mind as a Tennessee football player that it could not be allowed. We echoed that in the locker room. Everyone heard it for the next six years, and from that point on, we beat their butts."

UT beat Alabama 20-13 in Neyland Stadium in 1996, and didn't lose to the Tide again until 2002.

It was a memorable run for the Vols.

"It's big, but a lot of Bama fans, they don't see that," said Eric Westmoreland, linebacker for the Vols (1996-2000). "All they're seeing is the last couple of years, but those stretches of years were great because we were on top. We had the quality wins, the quality performances, so that's big in our minds for what's going on today."

The '97 Vols beat the Tide 38-21 in Birmingham on their way to a 10-1 regular season and SEC title (7-1).

UT defeated Auburn 30-29 in the '97 SEC Championship game before losing to Nebraska 42-17 in the Orange Bowl.

The Vols bounced back from that loss and won the 1998 SEC title and national championship.

"The whole time I was here we had an incredible amount of chemistry and great leadership," Hall said, "and those are a couple of ingredients you've got to have to have a national championship team or an SEC championship team or any kind of championship team. You've got to have chemistry, you've got to have leadership, and we were great because we had those two things the whole time I was here, and especially in '97 and '98."

Dave Link is a freelance contributor.

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Comments » 18

pcorange writes:

How about Fulmer for interim coach?

budd#207344 writes:

How about Bill Battle?

GloryDays writes:

in response to pcorange:

How about Fulmer for interim coach?

I hope all of you Fulmer haters are happy! We have endured 4 years of misery and phooey with no end in sight. Dave Claussen was a terrible hire. I have to believe our mighty Vols wold be a lot better off with Fulmer as our head coach!

posivol writes:

bring him back now!

TNORANGEDOGDAD writes:

Those were the days my friends ,we thought they'd never end........

VolinVirginia writes:

in response to GloryDays:

I hope all of you Fulmer haters are happy! We have endured 4 years of misery and phooey with no end in sight. Dave Claussen was a terrible hire. I have to believe our mighty Vols wold be a lot better off with Fulmer as our head coach!

Really? Based on what?

Perhaps you have forgotten about the Clawfense? How about Randy Sanders? How about that game against Wyoming?

Fulmer is a great guy and all Vol, but the game clearly passed him by. In some ways, I really hope he gets the job as Head Coach. I want to see all of his acolytes making excuses for him as he gives us more of the same coaching we saw his last few years.

Hey: if we are going to be a mediocre team, it might as well be entertaining.

GloryDays writes:

in response to VolinVirginia:

Really? Based on what?

Perhaps you have forgotten about the Clawfense? How about Randy Sanders? How about that game against Wyoming?

Fulmer is a great guy and all Vol, but the game clearly passed him by. In some ways, I really hope he gets the job as Head Coach. I want to see all of his acolytes making excuses for him as he gives us more of the same coaching we saw his last few years.

Hey: if we are going to be a mediocre team, it might as well be entertaining.

So your happy with 4 years of losing. Would it really be worse with Fulmer? Boyd QB at Clemson is really good and would be a lot better than Bray. The Wyoming loss was several days after Fulmer was fired. Did you see the Kentucky game last year?

VolinVirginia writes:

in response to GloryDays:

So your happy with 4 years of losing. Would it really be worse with Fulmer? Boyd QB at Clemson is really good and would be a lot better than Bray. The Wyoming loss was several days after Fulmer was fired. Did you see the Kentucky game last year?

Yeah, I have heard that excuse for Wyoming again and again and again and again and again and again. Still doesn't hold water.

Seriously, I hope he gets the job. After a few years of losing, we can finally put an end to the nonsensical notion that success will come from what already wasn't working.

Don't worry: you'll see.

cdldoc#211897 writes:

Stupidiest thing we ever did at UT, firing Fulmer. Have all the haters realized yet that we do not have a good recruiting base? That is the main reason no one wants this job. We would be lucky if he would come back.

rockytopwestone writes:

in response to cdldoc#211897:

Stupidiest thing we ever did at UT, firing Fulmer. Have all the haters realized yet that we do not have a good recruiting base? That is the main reason no one wants this job. We would be lucky if he would come back.

It may well have been stupid to Fire Coach Fulmer but when it`s all said and done he looked in the mirror every morning and he saw his own worst enemy. He brought his being fired upon himself by his own actions and inactions !

RockVegas writes:

in response to GloryDays:

I hope all of you Fulmer haters are happy! We have endured 4 years of misery and phooey with no end in sight. Dave Claussen was a terrible hire. I have to believe our mighty Vols wold be a lot better off with Fulmer as our head coach!

I loved CPF just like everyone else,but remember coach went out and hired a small school OC.He should have promoted a few guys,and moved some coaches around.These big time programs are all about wins,everybody also know that coach didn't want to change with the times.This day and age you have to let the best players play,open up the play book,and stop playing not to get beat....GBO

VOLFLIAM writes:

in response to GloryDays:

I hope all of you Fulmer haters are happy! We have endured 4 years of misery and phooey with no end in sight. Dave Claussen was a terrible hire. I have to believe our mighty Vols wold be a lot better off with Fulmer as our head coach!

Hello ???? Who hired Dave Claussen ????

VOLFLIAM writes:

in response to MerlotGoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Hire him back??? I thought he was still on the payroll.... LOL

signalcorps writes:

in response to cdldoc#211897:

Stupidiest thing we ever did at UT, firing Fulmer. Have all the haters realized yet that we do not have a good recruiting base? That is the main reason no one wants this job. We would be lucky if he would come back.

where have you been in a coma or just spinning for others,,,fulmers the reason we're in the mess we're in today,,he didn't put the good players back on our shelves and it caught up to him us....

Rockytopfan96 writes:

FULMER FOR PRESIDENT!!

ashvol7 writes:

in response to Rockytopfan96:

FULMER FOR PRESIDENT!!

Fulmer was only good as long as David Cutcliff was the OC. Clawson was his down fall, he was as bad as our present OC and our DC. We don't need Fulmer back for any reason. Hamilton was stupid for spending 6 mil on him, this in part is why the athletic department is broke. He is getting paid for running the program into the ground.

govols0463 writes:

Can you imagine how those guys must've felt coming home to that mess and having to sit through that? Embarrassing...

Rockytopfan96 writes:

in response to ashvol7:

Fulmer was only good as long as David Cutcliff was the OC. Clawson was his down fall, he was as bad as our present OC and our DC. We don't need Fulmer back for any reason. Hamilton was stupid for spending 6 mil on him, this in part is why the athletic department is broke. He is getting paid for running the program into the ground.

Fulmer was one of the best things that EVER happened to Tennessee........And bringing Fulmer back would make ALL of the Tennessee fans and players proud to called a Volunteer fan!!!!

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