When Coach Doug Dickey came to Tennessee two years ago he scrapped the team's old single-wing attack. While his offense was learning the T formation, his only hope for something less than a disastrous season was a stout defense. Dickey got it, as Emanuel and Tom Fisher (who was later killed in an automobile accident) came on to establish themselves as two of the best and, some insist, meanest linebackers ever to disrupt the Southeastern Conference. In that first year, 1964, Tennessee managed to win four of its games and tie favored LSU.
So inspirational was that tie that in Dickey's office there is a photograph of players sprawled over the field and the caption: "Goal Line Stand, Baton Rouge, La. Oct. 24, 1964. Tennessee 3, LSU 3." Twice LSU tried to get into the end zone from one foot away and twice the LSU ballcarrier ran headlong into Emanuel and Fisher.
Another goal line stand—Tennessee seemed to be playing inside its own 20 all that season—came against Alabama and, while it was successful, it was far less gratifying for Emanuel. Three times Alabama attempted to score from the one-yard line, with the last try being made by Joe Namath. Emanuel not only stopped Namath, he tried to push his face into the turf. "Hey, No. 50," said Namath, "you don't have to do that."
"This is a rough game, All-America," said Emanuel.
"Right you are, No. 50," said Namath. "Take a look at the scoreboard and you'll see just how rough it is." Alabama was leading 19 to 0.
Tennessee ended that season by losing to Vanderbilt, which was one it should not have lost. Emanuel and two other Tennessee players spent the evening at the Mad Mouse, a local college bistro, feeling low of spirit and mean of mind. On the way home a earful of high school kids began playing bumper tag with the Tennessee trio. Shortly Emanuel and his friends were responding with fists. The fight brought the police, and became a cause c�l�bre.
When Dickey heard of the affair he called Emanuel into his office and told him: "You're through. As of now you are no longer on the squad." Since Emanuel was on a full football scholarship and without any financial reserve to see him through such emergencies, he also was out of school.
"I was sick," says Emanuel. "Everything I had worked for, everything I had to look forward to was gone. In five lousy minutes I had chucked it all away."
Emanuel left school feeling depressed, humiliated and aimless. "Football was my life," he says. "Without it I didn't know which way to turn." He went to Florida and got in touch with a few semipro clubs but mostly did nothing. Then a Knoxville businessman called him and urged him to come back to town and get a job there.
Emanuel spent the rest of the winter in Knoxville working for a construction firm, exercising at the YMCA and minding his manners. His performance pleased Dickey, who called him one day and told him he could try out for the squad in the spring. "That was it," said Emanuel. "I had my chance, and you can bet by golly I was going to make it pay off." Which is another way of saying spring practice was a crusade. Emanuel brought so much zest to each practice session that it began to rub off on everybody. With Emanuel and Fisher on defense and a new ability to score from time to time Tennessee became an SEC power.