John Shearer: Former Rossville Quarterback Bobby Scott Recalls His UT Glory Days

Thursday, November 26, 2020 - by John Shearer
Bobby Scott at UT
Bobby Scott at UT

Although he is now 71, Bobby Scott still puts in 700-800 miles a week doing sales work for the Balfour class ring, yearbook and graduation packs company.

 

Exactly 50 years ago this autumn, he was helping the Tennessee Vol offense cover plenty of ground as well as the standout quarterback. And as the starter on both the 1969 SEC-winning team and the also-successful 1970 squad, he was the recipient instead of the seller of jewelry highlighting his school accomplishments.

 

In a recent interview over the phone, he jokingly said it definitely feels like 50 years have passed since his days wearing No.

10 in Neyland Stadium.

 

“It feels every bit of that,” he said with a laugh over the typical feelings that come with aging.

 

Some UT fans in Knoxville on football Saturdays might know him as much these days for being one of the hosts of the “Football Digest” radio show on WNML 99.1 before kickoff. It is work he enjoys doing and has since he began doing a show in 1983 with the longtime Knoxville country music station, WIVK.

 

“It keeps you around the game a little bit,” he said.

 

Of course, longtime UT fans in Chattanooga proudly claim Mr. Scott as a local sports hero, too, after his days starring for the old Rossville High School just across the state line. For a number of years before it and Chattanooga Valley High were closed in 1989 to form the new Ridgeland High School, Rossville had one of the better football programs.

 

Regularly featuring several players whose parents worked at the Peerless Woolen Mills, Rossville won state championships in 1954, ’55 and ’62, the latter under coach Frank Fabris.

 

Mr. Scott played under head coach Lynn Murdock before graduating in 1967 and remembers trying to uphold the tradition as the quarterback.

 

“Coach Murdock and Coach Frank Fabris had something going there,” he recalled. “You would win 8, 9 or 10 ballgames there every year. That’s what I wanted to leave Rossville with.”

 

He received some personal attention as well, and that drew the notice of some college scouts in those days before recruiting was quite as intense.

 

Mr. Scott had decided he wanted to come to Knoxville after his 11th-grade year at Rossville, even though he was courted by several other major programs, including Alabama and legendary coach “Bear” Bryant.

 

“I got to visit him in his office,” Mr. Scott recalled of the Crimson Tide coach. “He had 250-300 pictures lining his wall. He was a good guy, a class guy.”

 

He takes pride in the fact that the Vols beat Alabama all four years he was in school, including his last two as the starting quarterback.

 

“People ask me what the most satisfying thing that happened to me at UT was, and I say it was walking across the field and shaking hands with coach Bryant and telling him, ‘Good game,’ ” he said. “It was something when you beat him.”

 

Mr. Scott had shown flashes of being a future college star when he entered the Jan. 1, 1969, Cotton Bowl game late, after the wishbone-running Texas Longhorns were well ahead of the Vols. He played well, and that set him up to be a star as a junior in 1969.

 

He was, too, as the Vols had beat the hometown UT-Chattanooga Mocs, 31-0, in Knoxville, as well as defending SEC champion Georgia, 17-3, in Athens inside his former home state.

 

The Vols during what was the official 100th year of college football had only one regular-season blemish, but it was a bad one. They were solidly favored over Ole Miss on Nov. 15, but all-American linebacker Steve Kiner had during the preseason told the SEC skywriters that Ole Miss did not have a bunch of horses, or good players, after being asked.

 

Instead, he told them they had a bunch of mules. He was basing that on the 31-0 shellacking Tennessee gave the Rebels in 1968.

 

That and some leaflets supposedly sent by Tennessee talking about the easy win coming resulted in a 38-0 Ole Miss win in Jackson, Ms.

 

Another Tennessee linebacker, Jack Reynolds, was reportedly so angry after the loss that he took a hacksaw and cut up an abandoned car, thus earning him the nickname, “Hacksaw,” on his way to a standout NFL career.

 

The quarterback for Ole Miss was Archie Manning, who would become acquainted with Mr. Scott down the road in the NFL.

 

The Vols would still go on to win the SEC championship in 1969, although they lost to Florida in the Gator Bowl in a game in which it was rumored Tennessee coach Doug Dickey was returning to his alma mater as head coach.

 

This chain of unfortunate events did set up perhaps Mr. Scott’s best UT memory, when the Vols under new coach Bill Battle beat Florida and coach Dickey, 38-7, at home in his senior year of 1970.

 

“That was a great game,” the former quarterback said. “Everyone of us respected coach Dickey, but we weren’t going to let him come back in our backyard and beat us.”

 

The 1970 Vol team’s other highlights included a 24-0 win over Alabama, an easy win over Wake Forest in Memphis, and a 28-17 win over UCLA to close the regular season. The only blemish was an early season loss to Auburn led by quarterback Pat Sullivan.

 

All of this occurred before “Rocky Top” was even heard in Neyland Stadium before becoming the official fight song a few years later.

 

Mr. Scott’s UT career was capped in the Sugar Bowl game of Jan. 1, 1971, when the Vols easily beat Air Force, 34-13, for an 11-1 record during what was a heyday for Big Orange football. Scott remembered that the Air Force coach (Ben Martin) had made some comments during a pregame banquet that seemed to hint of disrespect for the Vols.

 

“We scored 24 points in the first quarter,” recalled Mr. Scott, who was the game’s MVP. “We put a hurt on them really quick.”

 

Besides Mr. Scott and the linebackers, UT at that time was also led by such defensive back standouts as Bobby Majors, Tim Priest, David Allen and Conrad Graham. One of the offensive linemen, meanwhile, was none other than future head coach Phillip Fulmer.

 

Mr. Scott was known as a good passer at Tennessee, but prided himself as a runner, too, and on making good decisions directing the veer offense. He said offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Jim Wright helped him get faster by having him jump rope and do other quickness drills.

 

Regarding coaches Dickey and Battle, Scott said they were both good coaches but had different personalities, with coach Battle the more easygoing of the two.

 

After UT, Mr. Scott played for more than a decade for the New Orleans Saints as a backup quarterback to Archie Manning, who became his roommate. He called all the Mannings good people and was in New Orleans when future UT quarterback Peyton Manning and his brothers were born.

 

Tennessee fans finally got to see Scott as a regular quarterback again in 1983 -- 13 years after his Vol days -- when he joined the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League, which played in the spring.

 

“It was a good experience,” he said of that stint. “I had never lived in New Jersey before.”

 

He got to hand the ball off to 1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker of Georgia, who, to Bulldog fans’ disappointment, had left school after his junior year before that was allowed in the NFL.

 

Mr. Scott, who once handed the ball off to standout Vol Curt Watson, the Crossville Comet, said he was impressed with Mr. Walker on and off the field.

 

“Everybody ought to have a running back like him,” he said. “He just ran as fast as he had to. He was a fantastic athlete and a great guy as well.”

 

Mr. Scott played in New Jersey and in Chicago later in 1983 before President Donald Trump bought the Generals the next year after he had left.

 

Since 1991, Mr. Scott has worked for Balfour. “It keeps you around young people and it hopefully keeps you young,” he said of the work.

 

Even this many years removed, he said people will regularly still see his name or meet him and eventually realize he was the former standout quarterback for Tennessee.

 

He still goes to Tennessee games during normal years, he added, sometimes sitting in the press box, but preferring to sit in the stands where the excitement and action are. “I still pull for them,” he said.

 

Like most Vol fans, he has been a little bit of a Monday morning quarterback, examining the quarterback situation and saying that, while he likes the courage of starter Jarrett Guarantano, he has also liked the look of freshman Harrison Bailey.

 

But Mr. Scott is best known as an accomplished Saturday afternoon quarterback for UT 50 autumns ago.

 

“I ended up at Tennessee, and I am certainly glad I did,” he said. “We were successful.”

 

Jcshearer2@comcast.net

 

Bobby Scott at UT
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