Robert Reese Neyland (pronounced KNEE-land), MBE, (February 17,
1892 – March 28, 1962) was an
American football player and coach and
officer in the United States Army, reaching the rank of brigadier
general. He served three stints as the head football coach at the
University of Tennessee
University of Tennessee (UT) from 1926 to 1934, 1936 to 1940, and 1946
to 1952. He is one of two college football coaches to have won
national titles in two non-consecutive tenures at the same school,
Frank Leahy of the University of Notre Dame. Neyland holds
the record for most wins in
Tennessee Volunteers history with 173 wins
in 216 games, six undefeated seasons, nine undefeated regular seasons,
seven conference championships, and four national championships. At
UT, he reeled off undefeated streaks of 33, 28, 23, 19, and 14 games.
Neyland is often referred to as one of the best, if not the best,
defensive football coaches ever.
Sports Illustrated named Neyland as
the defensive coordinator of its all-century college football team in
its "Best of the 20th Century" edition. 112 of his victories came
via shutout. In 1938 and 1939, Neyland's Vols set NCAA records when
they shut out 17 straight opponents for 71 consecutive shutout
quarters. His 1939 squad is the last NCAA team in history to hold
every regular season opponent scoreless.
Neyland was also an innovator. He is credited with being the first
coach to utilize sideline telephones and game film to study opponents.
His teams also were some of the first to wear lightweight pads and
tearaway jerseys. Such measures increased his players' elusiveness and
exemplify Neyland's "speed over strength" philosophy. Neyland is also
famous for creating the seven "Game Maxims" of football that many
coaches, on all levels, still use. Tennessee players recite the maxims
before every game in the locker room as a team.
Neyland Stadium at UT is not only named for The General, but was
designed by him. His plans formed the basis for all expansions that
brought the stadium to its modern size with an over 100,000 seat
capacity. Neyland was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame
as a coach in 1956.
On November 12, 2010, a 9-foot (2.7 m), nearly 1,500-pound
(680 kg) bronze statue of General Neyland was unveiled between
gates 15A and 17 at Neyland Stadium. The statue, which was
commissioned by artist Blair Buswell, is twice life-size. Since
Neyland is portrayed in the kneeling position rather than standing,
the statue is 9 feet (2.7 m) tall (a standing statue would have
stood 12 feet (3.7 m) tall). The base is 57 by 87 inches (140 by
220 cm) and features Neyland's well-known seven Game Maxims
engraved into the precast.
1 Early life
2 Coaching career
3 Playing career and education
5 Neyland Scholarship
6 Seven Maxims of Football
7 Head coaching record
8 See also
10 External links
Born in Greenville, Texas, Neyland was appointed to West Point by
Congressman Sam Rayburn, graduating in 1916. One of the greatest
athletes of his day, he was a star football lineman, baseball pitcher,
and national collegiate boxing champion. He was commissioned as an
officer in the Corps of Engineers and served in France during World
War I. After the war he served as an aide to Douglas MacArthur, who
was then superintendent at West Point, and became an assistant
football coach for the Black Knights of the Hudson.
Robert Neyland on display at Neyland Stadium
Wanting to continue coaching, Captain Neyland was appointed Professor
of Military Science at the
University of Tennessee
University of Tennessee (UT) in 1925.
After one season as an assistant to head coach M. B. Banks, Neyland
was named head coach and athletic director by school president Nathan
W. Dougherty in 1926. He coached the team for nine years before the
Army called him to active duty for one year in Panama. During that
first nine-year stint with the Vols, Neyland had five undefeated
seasons, all within a six-year period (1927, 1928, 1929, 1931, and
1932). The Vols reeled off undefeated streaks of 33 and 28 straight
games. Upon returning stateside from the
Panama Canal Zone, he
returned to UT as head coach.
Neyland's 1938 team went undefeated and was proclaimed national
champion by several minor outlets. His 1939 squad is notable for being
the last college football team to go an entire regular season unscored
upon, shutting out every opponent; his team was then shut out by USC
in the Rose Bowl. From November 5, 1938 to December 9, 1939, the Vols
ran off 17 straight shutouts and 71 consecutive shutout
quarters—records that have never been seriously threatened. Neyland
completed another undefeated regular season in 1940. He was recalled
to military service again in 1941. In World War II Neyland served in
the China-Burma-India Theater, supervising the transportation of
material through monsoons and across the
Himalayas to the troops
commanded by General "Vinegar" Joe Stillwell. During his military
career he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and the Legion
of Merit and made a member of the Order of the British Empire.
He retired from military service a second time, in 1946, with the rank
of brigadier general, and again returned to the Vols as coach through
1952. After producing mediocre teams in the late forties, many thought
that the General had lost his touch, as more teams moved toward the "T
formation" and Neyland continued running the single wing. Neyland was
vindicated, however, as he ended his career with a flourish. His 1950
team was crowned national champion by several minor outlets, while his
1951 team won the school's first undisputed national championship, the
first year the Volunteers ended a season ranked first in either the AP
or UPI poll. He remained as athletic director at the university until
his death in
New Orleans in March 1962.
Neyland at Army tossing a pass.
Shortly before his death, Neyland drew up plans for a major expansion
and renovation to the Vols' home stadium, Shields–Watkins Field.
When he had arrived in Knoxville in 1925, Shields–Watkins Field
seated only 3,200 people—barely a fraction of the capacity of
Vanderbilt's Dudley Field. Reflecting the Vols' rise to national
prominence under his watch, the stadium's capacity had jumped to over
46,000 seats—an over 14-fold increase—in the 36 years since then.
UT renamed the stadium
Neyland Stadium in his honor prior to the 1962
season, and the plans he drew up were so far ahead of their time that
they have been used as the basis for every major expansion since then.
Playing career and education
Neyland attended Burleson Junior College in his home town of
Greenville, Texas for a year and then transferred to Texas A&M
playing football a year before receiving an appointment to the United
States Military Academy at West Point, New York, where he starred as a
football lineman and baseball pitcher and was the academy boxing
National League baseball New York Giants offered him a
$3,500 contract, which he turned down. Instead, Neyland served
overseas briefly in World War I, then returned to get his engineering
degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, then moving to
West Point as aide-de-camp to Superintendent Douglas MacArthur.
Tombstone of General Neyland at Knoxville National Cemetery
On July 16, 1923, Neyland married Ada "Peggy" Fitch (September 1, 1897
– March 7, 1976) of Grand Rapids, Michigan. They had met while she
was visiting friends at the Academy. Ada was the daughter of Charles
Lewis Fitch (July 24, 1845 – September 8, 1930) and Mary S. (June
1853 – ?). They had two sons, Robert, Jr., born February 11,
1930, and Lewis, December 6, 1933 — 2013. General Neyland was the
son of lawyer Robert Reece Neyland, Sr. (October 1859 – 1935) and
Pauline Lewis Neyland (January 1861 – ?). His siblings were
sister Carroll M. Neyland (January 1890 – 1965) and brother Mayo W.
Neyland (March 1896 – November 1969). Both General Neyland and Ada
are buried in Knoxville National Cemetery.
In late 1961, Neyland began working on a plan for supporters of UT
athletic teams to show their interest in UT's academic programs by
offering scholarships to attract outstanding student scholars to the
University. General Neyland himself was an outstanding scholar, as
well as an athlete during his college days at West Point. It was the
General's dream that the University offer four-year academic merit
scholarships to students who possessed outstanding academic and
Following Neyland's death in early 1962, Dr. Andrew D. Holt, then UT
president, announced that a nationwide campaign would be launched to
raise a minimum of $100,000 to establish the Robert R. Neyland
Scholarship Fund. In October 1962, at half-time of the UT vs. Alabama
game, 165 women representing UT's sororities collected more than
$10,000 in a 15-minute time period at
Neyland Stadium to launch the
effort. By the end of fall 1962, more than $65,000 had been committed
to the Neyland Scholarship fund. In the spring of 1963, a decision was
made that proceeds from the annual Orange and White spring football
game would go to help build the Neyland Scholarship Fund.
The first Neyland Scholarships were awarded in 1963. The first two
recipients were Melissa Ann Baker of
Maryville, Tennessee (now Mrs.
Ann Baker Furrow, a former member of the UT Board of Trustees) and Mr.
Robert English Allen of Columbia, Tennessee.
Seven Maxims of Football
During the 1930s, Neyland began having his teams recite seven
sentences that he felt summarized everything it took to win a game.
These came to be known as "the Seven Maxims of Football", or "the
Seven Game Maxims." To this day, Vol teams still recite them in the
locker room before every game.
The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win.
Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way – SCORE.
If at first the game – or the breaks – go against you, don't let
up... put on more steam.
Protect our kickers, our QB, our lead and our ball game.
Ball, oskie, cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle...
for this is the WINNING EDGE.
Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made.
Carry the fight to our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes.
Head coaching record
Tennessee Volunteers (Southern Conference) (1926–1932)
Tennessee Volunteers (Southeastern Conference) (1933–1934)
Tennessee Volunteers (Southeastern Conference) (1936–1940)
Tennessee Volunteers (Southeastern Conference) (1946–1952)
Conference division title or
championship game berth
#Rankings from final Coaches Poll.
°Rankings from final AP Poll.
List of college football head coaches with non-consecutive tenure
^ "General Robert Reese Neyland". smokeys-trail.com.
^ "CNN/SI - Century's Best - SI's NCAA Football All-Century Team -
Wednesday October 06, 1999 03:30 PM". Sports Illustrated. October 6,
1999. Retrieved 2009-12-28.
Robert Neyland Biography".
Robert Neyland at the College Football Hall of Fame
Robert Neyland at Find a Grave
Links to related articles
Tennessee Volunteers head football coaches
J. A. Pierce (1899–1900)
Gilbert Kelly (1901)
Hubert Fisher (1902–1903)
Sax Crawford (1904)
James DePree (1905–1906)
George Levene (1907–1909)
Lex Stone (1910)
Zora G. Clevenger
Zora G. Clevenger (1911–1915)
John R. Bender (1916–1920)
M. B. Banks
M. B. Banks (1921–1925)
Robert Neyland (1926–1934)
W. H. Britton (1935)
Robert Neyland (1936–1940)
John Barnhill (1941–1945)
Robert Neyland (1946–1952)
Harvey Robinson (1953–1954)
Bowden Wyatt (1955–1962)
Jim McDonald (1963)
Doug Dickey (1964–1969)
Bill Battle (1970–1976)
Johnny Majors (1977–1992)
Phillip Fulmer (1992–2008)
Lane Kiffin (2009)
Derek Dooley (2010–2012)
Jim Chaney # (2012)
Butch Jones (2013–2017)
Brady Hoke # (2017)
Jeremy Pruitt (2018– )
# denotes interim head coach
Tennessee Volunteers athletic directors
Paul Barrows Parker (1931–1936)
Robert Neyland (1936–1941)
John Barnhill (1941–1945)
Robert Neyland (1946–1962)
Bowden Wyatt (1962–1963)
Bob Woodruff (1963–1985)
Doug Dickey (1985–2003)
Mike Hamilton (2003–2011)
Joan Cronan # (2011)
Dave Hart Jr. (2011–2017)
John Currie (2017)
Phillip Fulmer (2017– )
# denotes interim athletic director
1914 Army Cadets football—national champions
Paul A. Hodgson
William M. Hoge
Louis A. Merrilat
James Van Fleet
Head coach: Charles Dudley Daly
1916 Army Cadets football—national champions
Charles Dudley Daly
Tennessee Volunteers football—national champions
13 William F. Barnes
17 Sam Bartholomew
21 Buzz Warren
36 Ed Molinski
37 Bowden Wyatt
42 Bob Suffridge
47 Ed Cifers
54 Abe Shires
56 Bob Woodruff
72 George Cafego
77 Bob Foxx
Head coach: Robert Neyland
Assistant coaches: John Barnhill
W. H. Britton
Tennessee Volunteers football—national champions
20 Bert Rechichar
27 Hank Lauricella
38 John Michels
56 Jim Haslam
67 Ted Daffer
90 Bob Davis
91 Doug Atkins
96 Ed Nickla
Head coach: Robert Neyland
Assistant coach: Harvey Robinson
Amos Alonzo Stagg Award winners
1940: Herring Jr.
1942–1945 No award given
1948: Dobie, Warner & Zuppke
1950 No award given
1956 No award given
1976 No award given
1980 No award given