Tennessee Football: Who Would Be On the Volunteers' Mount Rushmore?

Who Would Be On Tennessee's Mount Rushmore?

2/27/14 in NCAAF   |   BlakeLovell   |   86 respect

Oct 20, 2012; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers former head coach Phillip Fulmer waves to the crowd after he was inducted into the college football hall of fame prior to the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide  at Neyland Stadium. Alabama won by a score of 44 to 13. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY SportsAs college football journalists, the college football off-season gives us a chance to discuss more than just the action on the field from August to January.

That's why today we are starting a new series in which we look back at a specific college football program and decide what four heads would be carved on the school's Mount Rushmore if it actually existed.

First up on our list is the Tennessee Volunteers, a team that has certainly seen a few legends come through Knoxville since the school first started playing football in 1891.

So with that in mind, if we were in charge of crafting the Vols' Mount Rushmore, here are the four people that would be on display:

General Robert Neyland (Head Coach - 1926-1934, 1936-1940, 1946-1952)

When you have the most wins of any coach in the program's history, and have the stadium named after you, there's a good chance you'll be included on the school's Mount Rushmore. Neyland's accomplishments speak for themselves:
  • Four national championships
  • Six undefeated seasons
  • Seven conference championships
  • Three winning streaks of 20+ games
  • In 112 of his 173 wins, the opposing team didn't score a single point
A coach that does those types of things doesn't come along very often. The Tennessee football program would not be what it is today with Neyland at the helm for three stints from the 1920s to the 1950s. He is a legend not only in Knoxville, but in the history of the game of college football.

Reggie White (Defensive End, 1980-1983)

The Chattanooga native stayed in his home state to play his college football, and you better believe that Tennessee fans are glad that he did. White broke out during his sophomore season with the Vols, as he accumulated nearly 100 tackles and led the team in total sacks on the year. Of course, things would only continue to get better from there.

Even though injury slowed him during his junior season (a season in which he had earned Preseason All-American honors), White made up for it with a phenomenal senior year. He racked up 15 sacks, a school record, and was eventually named SEC Player of the Year as well as the All-American team.

Another player like White has yet to come along in Knoxville, as his unbelievable ability to get to the quarterback truly made him one of a kind in the orange and white uniform.

Peyton Manning (Quarterback, 1994-1997)

While changes may need to be made to the Mount Rushmore if a historic coach or player comes along at some point in the future, one thing we know for sure is that there will never be another Peyton Manning. 

Manning's eventual takeover of the football world started in Knoxville, with him compiling a 39-6 record as starting quarterback of the Vols, a feat that had not been accomplished in the SEC ever before. He worked his way towards becoming the school's most prolific passer as he shattered records all over the place.

But, despite all the awards that he won during his tenure as quarterback of Tennessee, there will always be talk about the one award that alluded him: the Heisman trophy. Many still believe he should have won it over Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson in 1997, but Heisman trophy or no Heisman trophy, he's still the best player to ever play for the Volunteer football program.

Phillip Fulmer (Head Coach, 1992-2008)

Who knew that the Vols' former All-American guard would go on to be one of the most successful coaches in the program's history? That's exactly what Fulmer did in leading Tennessee to 152 victories, two SEC championships, and one national championship.

It wasn't just the wins that were noteworthy during Fulmer's career, but it was his ability to bring in and mold some of the best players the university has ever seen. So many outstanding players came through the pipeline during Fulmer's tenure as coach, with Manning obviously being the greatest. But players like Al Wilson, Jamal Lewis, Travis Henry, and Jason Witten were among a group that helped Tennessee become a national power during the Fulmer era.

Fulmer's exit may not have been the greatest one (especially when you consider how that whole Lane Kiffin hire worked out), but there's no doubting the fact that he achieved great success as head coach of the Big Orange.

Who would you put on Tennessee's Mount Rushmore? Let us know by commenting below! For more college football talk, follow FanIQ College Football or myself on Twitter!
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