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May 15, 2012

Appreciation for Fulmer's run to the Hall

Every four times now College Football Hall of Fame member and former Vol head coach Phillip Fulmer took his Vols to the football field, they won three times.

It's a standard that few will ever accomplish and it's why the Tennessee native was a lock for the College Football Hall of Fame.

Over the last 24 hours or so, I've visited with longtime friends, former player and others who are close to Fulmer to talk about the impending honor and to tell some stories.

Some of the stories are meaningless to the history of Tennessee football. Stories like me getting thrown out of practice in the Arizona desert. But there are a lot more stories that are significant to the history of Tennessee football.

Stories of players success off the field as well as on the field. Stories of wins like winning 45 out of 50 games over a stretch in the 1990's. Stories of championships both conference and national.

Stories of winning streaks over rivals like Alabama. Stories of wins over countless ranked opponents and wins in every SEC venue.

For many fans, Phillip Fulmer is the only coach they grew up following and knowing. For some, the only resume they choose to remember is his final four years, a 29-21 mark which included two losing seasons and a trip to the SEC Title game.

But the truth is that Fulmer's entire body of work is an era of Tennessee football that may never be matched again. It's a level of consistent success that many fans got so comfortable with that they probably truly didn't appreciate it the way they should have.

I know as someone covering the team everyday, I certainly became numb to just how good Tennessee football truly was under Fulmer. A team full of NFL talent and a team that you expected to win every game and some of those games you knew would be a blowout regardless of how hyped up Fulmer could get his team that week.

Fulmer's winning percentage of 74.5 is only bettered by General Robert Neyland's 80-percent. And he has a stadium named after him.

I told Fulmer and those close to him soon after he was relieved of his duties, that the appreciation for what he has done for Tennessee football would only grow. Today, Fulmer is getting the appreciation he deserves with the ultimate honor in college football which the induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.

And as time continues to pass, the appreciation for Fulmer's era as Tennessee's head coach grows among Vol fans as it should.


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