KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (Nov. 3, 2012) – Several of the staunchest University of Tennessee Volunteers football fans from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District attended Military Appreciation Day at the game today and paid tribute to former district engineer and Vols coaching legend Brig. Gen. Robert R. Neyland.
Led by Lt. Col. James A. DeLapp, Nashville District commander, the group visited a nine-foot 1,500-pound bronze statue of the coach at Neyland Stadium, which the team unveiled in November 2010.
“It was wonderful to be able to see the recognition of the military and also an opportunity for the Corps employees to visit General Neyland’s stadium there in Knoxville,” DeLapp said. “He’s most known there at the football stadium and on the campus as the winning-nest football coach in Tennessee’s history. But of course he was also the Army ROTC detachment commander, professor of military science, and also one of our most notable district commanders.”
Neyland served as commander and district engineer of the Nashville and Chattanooga Districts in 1933 and 1934, while simultaneously teaching military science and coaching the Volunteers. While in the Corps of Engineers, he often worked in the backseat of his car while en route between his various duties and his coaching hobby. He retired from the Army in 1936 to devote his full attention to coaching.
The Army required his services for another team effort in 1941, and he again served with distinction in the difficult China-Burma-India Theater. After World War II, he returned to the University of Tennessee.
Neyland served as the head football coach from 1926 to 1934, 1936 to 1940, and 1946 to 1952, and holds the record for most wins in Tennessee Volunteers history. He amassed 173 wins in 216 games, which included six undefeated seasons, nine undefeated regular seasons, seven conference championships, and four national championships. His 1939 squad is the last NCAA team in history to hold every regular season opponent scoreless.
The “General,” as he is known at the university, passed away March 28, 1962. His legacy lives on today and Neyland Stadium is his monument of excellence.
The fact that it has been 60 years since General Neyland last coached did not go unnoticed here in the Nashville District, DeLapp noted. So he put together a small contingent of employees to make the trek to Knoxville to remember and pay respect to the district’s former commander.
William James, Chip Hall, David Robinson and his father Jim volunteered to go to the game.
Hall said he was pretty much born bleeding orange, attended the University of Tennessee, and couldn’t miss an opportunity to connect with his school and his work’s heritage all in one trip.
“It was amazing by chance we managed to make it down on the field today and got to watch a football game, at least part of it, from the field,” Hall said. “It was a great day. Ultimately, Tennessee won the game too.”
As for paying his respect to Neyland, Hall said, “It’s great to know the Tennessee heritage reaches across so much more important things in our country’s history.”
DeLapp had another reason to celebrate at the game. His brother, Lt. Col. Joe DeLapp, flew in a formation of F-16 Falcon fighter aircraft from Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Ariz.
The aircrews participated in the Military Appreciation Day activities and met with university ROTC cadets during their trip to Knoxville.
“It’s pretty great to be able to get together with Jim. Obviously I have another brother in the service as well. So with three boys in the service we don’t get to spend much time with one another. So if there’s an opportunity where we can get together we always take that chance,” Joe said. “I’m glad I can get out here and give support for the military appreciation day.”
DeLapp said the event provided him the added benefit of being able to see his brother; however, events like this also serves to educate the public about the missions of the Nashville District, which is responsible for navigable waterways in the Cumberland and Tennessee River Basins; flood risk reduction; hydropower and recreation at nine multipurpose projects in the Cumberland River Basin; and protection, preservation, restoration and improvement of natural resources.
In the Knoxville vicinity, the Nashville District operates and maintains Fort Loudoun Navigation Lock on the Tennessee River, DeLapp said.
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