Before Saturday, Lee Corso last made an official visit to Knoxville last September, when he donned a coonskin cap in animated fashion and predicted during the ESPN GameDay broadcast from Circle Park that Tennessee would beat Florida.
When he received the Lindsey Nelson Broadcasting Award on Saturday at the Foundry, he was much more subdued — but only a little less enthusiastic.
“I am so proud to accept this Lindsey Nelson Broadcasting Award,” he said during the East Tennessee Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame’s awards brunch.
“That’s an unbelievable career he (Nelson) had,” Corso added, pointing out that the late Knoxville resident and CBS announcer is in 13 different halls of fame. “He covered sports in five different decades. That’s a tremendous record. And he did it with passion.”
The former Louisville and Indiana football coach, whose first broadcasting work was for the Mizlou Television Network in 1979, also showed a little passion in praising Tennessee.
“I’ll tell you what, there’s no place in America that compares to that stadium on Saturday night.”
Later, he added, “Tennessee has the greatest fans, the greatest stadium and the greatest song,” he said. “The only one (fight song) that compares is Notre Dame’s, but I’m Catholic.”
In an interview after his brief remarks and while posing for pictures, Corso was full of praises for new Tennessee coach Butch Jones, who also gave an enthusiastic speech at the beginning of the brunch.
“He’s a good football coach,” Corso said. “I think he has what it takes to get Tennessee winning. I honestly think Tennessee is one of the top five coaching jobs in America.”
At the start of his acceptance speech, Corso told the audience that he suffered a stroke about two years ago and for them to bear with him during his speech.
But most of his talk was humorous and upbeat and had been set up by a humorous introduction by former Vol coach and player Johnny Majors.
Majors said he first met Corso back in the 1950s, when Majors’ brother, Joe, was playing at Florida State with Corso and actor Burt Reynolds.
The Tennessee coach from 1977-92 said that Corso once began waving a white towel of surrender after Mississippi State was running up the score against his Louisville team. And when his Indiana team was leading Ohio State, 7-6, and had not beaten the Buckeyes in years, he had his team pose for a picture in front of the scoreboard.
“The scoreboard said, ‘Indiana 7, Ohio State 6.’ The final score was Indiana 7, Ohio State 47,” Majors said as the audience laughed.