Former Tennessee Volunteer coaching legend Phillip Fulmer was selected in the 2012 College Football Hallf of Fame class alongside fellow coaches Jimmy Johnson, who coached Miami and Oklahoma State, and R.C. Slocum of Texas A&M Tuesday morning.
Fulmer accumulated a 152-52 record during his time with the Orange and White. His victory total ranks sixth in the history of the Southeastern Conference.
The Winchester, Tenn., native coached the Vols to six SEC Eastern Division Titles, two SEC Championships and one BCS National Title.
“From the standpoint of joining such an elite group of coaches and players and an organization like the National Foundation Football Hall of Fame — I am honored,” Fulmer said Tuesday. “Something like that doesn’t happen with an awful lot of commitment from a lot of people.
“I have to start with wife and my children and the price that they paid for me to do a profession that I had a passion for. It is was never a job from our standpoint it was a lifestyle. I am grateful to them for allowing me to do that.”
Monday night the news started to filter out that Fulmer might be on the receiving end of one of the highest honors that any college football coach can receive and his phone was ringing off the hook.
“I have had the occasion this morning to talk to Coach (Doug) Dickey, Joe Johnson and Bill Battle — the guys that were extremely influential in me getting into coaching,” Fulmer said. “I appreciate Coach Dickey and Joe Johnson especially for giving me the opportunity. I went to work every day to try and prove that they made the right decision.”
Fulmer also had the chance to catch up with loads of former Vols, which was a rarity during his coaching years.
“I have heard from hundreds of them,” he said. “That has been really special to get a chance to talk with some of them through text of email. That has been one of the fun things about being out of coaching is having time to reconnect with former players.”
Just four years removed from his final coaching days in Knoxville, Fulmer had no idea that his was about to be enshrined as one of the elite in the coaching profession.
"There is no one at UT that I am upset with because they are all fired. They are all gone."
“It was obviously the biggest accomplishment that you can have in the coaching world to be recognized by your peers and the powers that be that you are one of the best,” Fulmer said. “There are 4.6 million people, I read a release that they sent, that have played or coaches in football and less than 1,000 people have been chosen for this. You are talking about less than one percent. I was thrilled with that.
“It is very unusual to get in on the first ballet. I am honored by that, but no I wasn’t sitting thinking that it was going to happen in three years. I was aware that it could, but life has gone on for me and we are doing other things. I will always be a Tennessee fan and our time there, but I have children and grandchildren and another opportunity that I am taking advantage of.”
After a being ousted at Tennessee, Fulmer said this award reassures everything he was able to accomplish during his 17 years at the helm of the Orange and White.
“This puts a validation on things you accomplished,” Fulmer said. “It is probably not the best time to address the other things, but time does go on. You have to make the most of it. I taught those players that all those years and you have to follow it yourself. There is no one at UT that I am upset with because they are all fired. They are all gone.”
Since his days at Tennessee Fulmer’s name has been mentioned along with several elite coaching jobs including, most recently, Arkansas and he isn’t ruling out the possibility of coaching again.
“If they right opportunity presented itself I would consider it, but I am not out there searching for any nook and cranny of anything that might come up,” he said.