WHEN ROBERT NEYLAND retired from coaching in 1952, he had already left an indelible mark on the decade. His '51 Tennessee squad became the first SEC team to win a consensus national championship. Hank Lauricella, the halfback known as Mr. Everything for his ability to punt, pass and kick the ball, led the Vols that year along with All-America linemen Ted Daffer and Bill Pearman. The void left by Neyland was at least partially filled in '53, when a bluetick coonhound named Smokey won a live mascot contest, starting a new tradition at Tennessee. With help from Smokey and All-America halfback Johnny Majors, coach and former Tennessee standout Bowden Wyatt led the Volunteers to their second conference title of the decade in '56, when the team went 10-1 and finished No. 2 in the final AP poll. The versatile Majors, who would later win three conference championships as head coach of the Vols, rushed for 549 yards, passed for 552 and finished a close second to Notre Dame's Paul Hornung in the '56 Heisman Trophy balloting.
COACH OF THE DECADE
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 1 (1957);
SEC TITLES: 1 (1957)
NO HEAD COACH AT AUBURN HAS had more success than Ralph (Shug) Jordan, who took over a struggling program in 1951. By '57 the Tigers had won their first SEC and national titles. Over the quarter century that Jordan coached at Auburn, his teams finished 13 times in the Top 25. Alas, Jordan's fate was to coach in the same state as Paul Bryant, and Shug was only 5-13 against the Bear.
Lloyd Nix, captain and quarterback of the '58 squad, recalls Jordan as a well-liked coach whose door was always open. Jordan also had a sense of humor, says Nix, recalling a 1957 game, when Auburn was leading Houston 20-0 and in position to score again. "Lloyd, get it in the end zone," Jordan told Nix, who then threw an interception that was returned 89 yards for a touchdown. "Coach Jordan met me in the middle of the field and said, 'Damn it, Lloyd. I meant the other end zone.' "
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