Football as a War Game

October 31st, 2005

By Coach Hugh Wyatt

I was fortunate enough to have a conversation last week with Andy Kozar.

That’s Andy Kozar, who played linebacker and single wing at Tennessee for the legendary General Bob Neyland in the photo.


It was pretty exciting for me, talking nuts-and-bolts single wing football with a man whose 1951 Cotton Bowl performance as a sophomore (two fourth quarter touchdown runs that enabled the Vols to come from behind to defeat Texas, 20-14) earned him a spot in the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame, who starred the next year on Tennessee’s 1951 national championship team, and made All-SEC as a senior.

Andy Kozar came from the Johnstown, Pennsylvania area originally, and recalled being recruited, along with an undersized guard from the same are named Frank Kush, by Michigan State’s Duffy Daugherty.

But he chose Tennessee, and despite his size - 6-3, 230 pounds, quite large in those days, he was converted from a lineman to a fullback his freshman year.

He told me that Coach Neyland didn’t particularly care whether his players were big — he wanted them lean and fast, and he tried in vain to get his fullback’s weight down. When his best efforts were to no avail, he did the next best thing, and listed Kozar in the game program at only 192 pounds.

Andy remembered his first game against Alabama, when a Bama defender tackled him, and finding him quite a handful, looked at him as they both lay on the ground and said, “By God, you ain’t no 192!”

In 1952, his senior year, he led the Vols in rushing. Think about that one a minute, you single-wingers — your fullback is your leading rusher! For his performance that year, Andy Kozar was named All-SEC.

Following graduation, he pursued a career in physical education, earning both his Master’s and his Ph. D. from the University of Michigan. (In 1998 he would receive the Alumni Achievement Award from Michigan’s Division of Kinesiology.

After Michigan, he returned to Tennessee, where over a 37-year academic career he advanced from instructor to professor to department head to executive assistant to the President of the University.

He became a nationally-renowned expert on paddleball and racquetball, and among his many achievements, he has been a national champion in paddelball and a Michigan state champion in racquetball, and has written several books on both sports.

Now Professor Emeritus of health, exercise and safety science at the University of Tennessee, Dr. Kozar remains very close to Tennessee sports. “Phil Fullmer and Pat Head (Summitt) were both students of mine,” he told me proudly, and now his game-day responsbility entails arranging for the clergymen who give the invocations at every UT game. (”This is the Bible Belt,” he reminded me.)

Dr. Kozar remains a strong advocate of exercize himself, and still works out faithfully five days a week, riding a stationary bike every morning for 30 minutes and running in the pool at the University twice a week.

Our conversation went on at some length, touching on the General’s dabbling in sidesaddle-T, as well as his decision to run his single-wing from a balanced line. Believe me when I tell you that Dr. Kozar really knows, and remembers, his football.


Dr. Kozar’s book, “Football as a War Game: The Annotated Journals of General R.R. Neyland” (Falcon Press, 2003) is an amazing look into how the General approached the game of football.

It is like going to a college library and digging into the notebooks of a great coach, except that Dr. Kozar has already done the hard research for us, with page-by-page copies of General Neyland’s journals, along with explanatory notes, photographs, lists, practice schedules and, yes, doodles. Even great coaches doodle occasionally. (Remind your wife of that the next time she catches you drawing plays on the placemat at the restaurant.)

In the words of Dr. Kozar, it’s “the general’s own words and thoughts on a day to day, game to game basis, as he wrote them on paper.” And the general certainly kept amazingly detailed journals. He wrote down everything, including his innermost thoughts on his players and his opponents.

“Football as a War Game” contains more than 200 pages of General Neyland’s handwritten thoughts, coaching strategies, play diagrams (including some really wild ones, from formations you’ve probably never seen anywhere else), practice schedules, lists of maxims and beliefs, anecdotes and more. There are more than 250 photographs. Dr. Kozar’s commentary all along the way provides his personal insight into the general’s thinking.

The book is beautifully bound, and in my estimation is well worth the $75 price. It is not for the casual fan, but for the serious football historian, for the devoted single-winger, and anyone building a football library, it is a must.

Mail orders to:
Dr. Andy Kozar
6501 Sherwood Drive
Knoxville TN 37919
(Make checks payable to FALCON PRESS)

Incidentally, Dr. Kozar told me he sold a couple of copies not long ago to Bill Belichick, who I am betting kept one for his own private collection (I am told he has a very extensive one) and gave the other to his dad, Steve, a long-time college coach who once coached against General Neyland while at Vanderbilt.

Opponents of the Vols may not like to hear this, but all proceeds from the sales of Dr. Kozar’s book will go to the Robert R. Neyland Athletic Endowment in the Volunteer Athletic Scholarship Fund.

Copyright 2005 Hugh Wyatt. All rights reserved.

Thursday Night in the U.P.

October 17th, 2005

A few weeks ago I took a little road trip with my 7-year old son to see Menominee, Michigan’s freshman football team. I was invited by their head coach Jeff Bayerl, whom I’ve know since I was in 6th grade. It so happened that Paul Shanklin was in town from New Jersey as well so it was an opportunity to see him as well.

Maroon Frosh-03

I really enjoy seeing these games and especially watching future varsity players just beginning their high school careers. The job that Jeff and his cousin Mark do at this level is so important for the Menominee program. They are laying the foundation that will propel these young players to become fundamentally sound football players that will supply the varsity squad with talent in two years.

Maroon Frosh-05

Maroon Frosh-01

It was a beautiful evening in the U.P. that Thursday evening. Fall was slowly making it’s way and single wing football was on tap versus their arch-rival, Kingsford, MI. This was the second time these two have met this season and I was in for a treat. It was truly a slugfest.

The final score was 14-6 in Menominee’s favor to keep the season long victory streak for the entire program. The varsity, junior varsity and freshman teams were undefeated at the time.

All the scoring in this contest was done in the first half. The Maroons used a mix of single wing formations, left and right, along with the “Beast” formation. In the second half the stand off commenced as both teams couldn’t make paydirt although Menominee dominated the play. Menominee’s offense was of interest to me in this half. Essentially they ran two plays the entire second half. It was either tailback off-tackle to the strong side or fullback off-tackle to the weak side.

Maroon Frosh-06

Maroon Frosh-07

Maroon Frosh-09

Jeff described it as, “Our 32 Slant is our weak side off-tackle play. 48 Blast is our strong side off-tackle play. We play 12-minute quarters and we had roughly 48 plays in that game. Our tailback had 23 carries, all were off tackle on blast or beast. Our fullback had roughly 12 to 15 tough carries that night. Basic description of 32 Slant is the tight end kicks his man out, the tackle blocks his man down, quarterback (blocking back) and tailback lead into the hole and the fullback runs parallel to the line of scrimmage and up into the 2 hole.”

Maroon Frosh-11

They began the half with an over nine minute long drive, their second of the night. They were able to control the line of scrimmage all game and the players made important first downs when needed. Defensively they made two crucial red-zone stands in the second and fourth quarters respectively.

Maroon Frosh-10

After the game I found Jeff with his team on the field and he was very excited and commented on what a wonderful game it was. He also pointed out that my son is his good luck charm — this was the third game in which we attended and his team has won all three. I told Jeff that his tailback and fullback have to be the tallest tandem I’ve seen playing in a single wing backfield. One is 6′3″ and the other 6′4″ — 9th graders!

Snap & Go!
adam_wesoloski at

Father and Son

October 3rd, 2005

My father grew up during the Depression deep in the Midwest. His people were farmers, fire and brimstone preachers, and small-time business men who populated small towns from Missouri to Oklahoma. Like all the other children of his time he learned that there was never enough of anything and that hard work was the only solution to problems of food and money. He went to a small Missouri college with his young wife, and they and I lived in a small trailer that served as temporary student housing. He worked, went to class and played a variety of sports, especially football. Dad was a very good athlete and later in life would play semi-professional baseball. Unfortunately his athleticism must have skipped a generation. The guys he went to school with had grown up hard by the farming experience and they had no ambitions of doing anything in sports more than what they had then and there. Most were the first in their families to go off to college and they bore a responsibility to others that they took seriously.

I learned my sports from my father. Basketball has been our family game, tying the generations together with an invisible rope. The first thing he taught me about basketball was to get the ball to other people, pass the ball, then move. Pass the ball, then move. We practiced the pick and roll endlessly, just as I would teach my sons the same move later in life. When we played on the same team, neither one of us would shoot much, but we made everyone else look good. When I played for my high school team in Massachusetts. I was 6′4″ guard at a time when that height would have normally made me a center. The coach liked me because I was the only player who would pass the ball to someone exactly when they could do something with. My father never saw me play more than two or three games since he was working three jobs to support a wife and five kids, but he never asked me about my scoring, only about my assists.

Dad taught me football in the backyard. He would spend an hour after church on Sunday between lunch and the Giants game throwing me all the patterns that we would see shortly on TV. I ran button hooks, flies, posts, slant-ins, curls and the like. When I was young I would run the patterns in his old college football cleats, my small feet would be lost in them and he would laugh so hard he had trouble throwing the ball. As our family grew to five children he worked more jobs to support them and that cut into our time together, but our Sundays remained sacred. He would throw perfect spirals in the afternoon sun, and I would make leaping, acrobatic catches with my shirt tail flying out. If I dropped the ball he would take the blame for throwing such a bad pass. When I made a particularly good reception, I would raise the ball high in the air as if it was a real reception in a real game.

In quiet moments he talked wistfully of dreams postponed. He really would have liked to coach, especially at the high school level. He said he wanted to be on the sidelines when the game was at a crucial point and watch his team’s character overcome the other team’s character, but his responsibilities took him down a different path. The closest he ever got was when my 1987 team won the first division championship in lacrosse in the school’s history. He paced behind the bench, although in truth he didn’t know anything about the game at all. He did know about athletic endeavor, and he did know about physicality and he saw both of those that day. In the spirit of good lacrosse parents everywhere, he even yelled at the officials a few times. At the end, after the referee handed me the game ball, I turned and threw it to Dad. He laughed and held it high in the late afternoon sun, just as I once had done with a football years before.

My father got old too quickly. Alzheimer’s ate away at his core, taking his strength and his memory, and leaving someone I didn’t know in his place. The strong man who played football in the days when you folded up your helmet and put it in your back pocket after practice, couldn’t remember how to fold his body to get in the back seat of a car. He would actually get down on his hands and knees and crawl into his seat. I had to turn away when he did that. I wanted back the man who helped me sledge hammer an old house into submission, who threw footballs all afternoon to his two grandsons until his arm got sore, who got tears in his eyes when I talked about Vietnam, who loved to sing Christmas carols as he haphazardly decorated the tree with several boxes of tinsel that Mom would later artfully and discreetly rearrange.

He lived for a while in an Alzheimer’s facility where he walked for miles each day in that never ending circular pattern so typical of Alzheimer’s patients. He didn’t always recognize me. I would sneak candy in to him just about every Sunday and he would hold it up to the light before tasting it, then smile as its flavor hit his tongue. The last gift I gave him was an indoor lacrosse ball. He tasted it and gave me a funny look. I laughed and gave him some M&Ms. I tried to show him how to squeeze the ball for exercise, but when I left I noticed that it was on the floor next to an old National Geographic.

Dad died a couple years back, the whole family in the hospital room with him, wanting him to go and not wanting him to go at the same time. His sense of duty and responsibility, his quiet commitment to outworking all those around him — still guide his son and daughters and his grandchildren to this day.

I think of him often and the choices he had to make in the past. My feet are still too small for Dad’s shoes, but they are walking in footsteps he made long ago.

Paul Shanklin