FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Johnny Majors climbed out of the passenger side of an all-black SUV dressed like the person he’d come to celebrate.
“Here he comes, the man who looks like Frank Broyles himself,” Majors’ wife, Mary Lynn, said as the couple approached Bud Walton Arena.
Majors wore a cardinal red sport coat, white undershirt and a tie striped in Arkansas Razorbacks colors. He was one of the most recognizable among many prominent figures who attended a celebration of Broyles’ life Saturday afternoon. The list of attendees also included Jerry Jones, Eddie Sutton, Ken Hatfield and three SEC commissioners.
“I had a great relationship with Coach Frank Broyles,” Majors told SEC Country. “Frank was imaginative, creative, and he was a very wonderful man. He had great character. He didn’t smoke or drink. We assistant coaches did that for him.
“We loved working for him. He paid us well and he treated us well. He had a temper and could get mad at you, but he didn’t let it linger. If he got it out of his system, he was always ready to go back to the positive.”
Majors, who coached Tennessee for 16 years (1977-1992), was an assistant under Broyles at Arkansas for four years (1964-1967). The Razorbacks went unbeaten during Majors’ first 21 games as part of the staff. He was one of four assistants on Broyles’ staff in 1964 — when Arkansas won its first and only national title — who went on to lead a college program.
Majors first heard of Broyles when he was 11 years old. His father, Shirley, a well-known longtime high school and college coach in Tennessee, had attended the 1946 season opener between Tennessee and Georgia Tech in Knoxville, Tenn. It was a game that featured Robert Neyland vs. Bobby Dodd, two legendary coaches. The Volunteers won 13-9, but when Shirley Majors returned home he reported he’d been most fascinated with the Yellow Jackets senior quarterback — Frank Broyles.
“Daddy came back and he said, ‘It was really interesting to see Frank Broyles and Georgia Tech with their razzle-dazzle offense,'” Majors said.
Majors later played halfback at Tennessee, facing Georgia Tech three times while Broyles was an assistant at his alma mater. A strong mutual admiration developed in the years that followed, resulting in Majors being hired away from Mississippi State by Broyles following the 1963 season.
His success under Broyles led to Majors landing his first head coaching job at Iowa State in 1968. Eight years later he won a national title as coach at Pittsburgh before moving on to a successful tenure at Tennessee.
“I was very fortunate to work for Frank,” Majors said. “He broadened me. He broadened all of us. One of the most progressive, enthusiastic and positive people I’ve ever known in my life. He proved it living here for 60 years and being with the university for over 50 years.
“There’s nobody like him. There’s only one Frank Broyles and they’ll never be anything like him again.”