There’s influence… and then there’s influence.

The legend is that Gen. Robert R. Neyland had a profound impact on his players, long after they had had turned in their orange and white uniforms for business suits or had gone into coaching… or both.

There was a time more than 20 former Vols were collegiate head coaches, and many more were assistants or coached at high schools across Tennessee and the country. Tennessee was a veritable “cradle of coaches” in Gen. Neyland’s day.

Two former Vols were watching practice at Shields-Watkins Field one day.

One of them, in the fashion of the day, had just lit a cigarette when Neyland walked in their direction. He quickly extinguished it as Neyland inched closer.

“Why did you do that?” his friend asked, “He’s not your coach any more.”

The reply was vintage. “You know it, and I know it, but I’m not sure he knows it.”

Doug Dickey had the same impact on his players. The memory is still fresh of his former players, many in their late 40s or early 50s, breaking into a mild sweat when it came time to visit Dickey in his office for whatever reason.

That also happened to people who worked for him every now and then.

Such is the influence coaches have on their players, long after their playing days are over.

Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014