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HomeGrown: Phillip Fulmer

Former Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer bleeds Big Orange, but did you know the talented high school athlete almost took a different path?

When he was in high school, looking ahead to playing football in college, Bear Bryant and the Crimson Tide came calling.

"I actually committed to him. I don't know if a lot of people know that. I guess I'm telling a whole lot of people right now."

Doug Dickey from Tennessee also recruited Fulmer.

"They convinced me he was going to retire, Coach Bryant was going to retire. So, I'm all in with Tennessee and made a great decision to come to Tennessee because it's kind of like mother calling."

But, he'll never forget that phone call to Bryant.

"It was short," laughs Fulmer. "He didn't like it."

Bryant didn't retire. Fulmer suited up in orange. Even though he dreamed up playing defense, Fulmer moved to the offense and excelled at tight end.

"We beat Alabama 3 out of the 4 years I was here."

Fulmer wanted to be an attorney, but fell in love with coaching as a graduate assistant at Tennessee. The job took him to other schools, but in 1980, he got the call to come home.

After 13 years as an assistant and a controversial decision, Fulmer replaced Johnny Majors.

"That was difficult on everybody that loved Tennessee football. I look back, it was the right decision for me and my family and I think for Tennessee Athletics because we ended up having really the greatest era in modern Tennessee football history- the mid 90's and early 2000's.

For Fulmer, it was truly a family business.

"Our children grew up riding piggy back off the practice field by players."

The obvious high, 1998, a perfect season, topped off with a national championship

"All the cameras were flashing and the crowd was roaring and people rushing to the middle of the field. I felt my dad. I felt the presence of my dad there with me and unfortunately, he had died in 1989. It was a beautiful time for everybody that loves Tennessee."

Who could've predicted a decade later Fulmer would take his last Vol Walk.

He has just one regret... "I would've liked to have had a chance to get it fixed."

Fulmer is incredibly proud of his legacy. "I can look back and say, hey, I did it right. We were very blessed to have some great football players come to Tennessee that we recruited in the right way and coached hard. They became better people because they were a part of what we did whether they played pro football or not."

And, who knew life after football could be so good.

"The "Blind Side" was a great experience. You know hanging out with Sandra Bullock for 4 days was fun."

In addition to Hollywood, Fulmer's also a College Football Analyst for CBS, involved in a successful business and has time to catch up with former players.

"It's been wonderful to go to Atlanta and play golf with Al Wilson, Pearless Price and Carl Pickens."

So will Fulmer ever coach again? "I don't think so. I've kind of got a life now."

A life that centers around pint-sized, perhaps future players, his grandchildren. A devoted father and grandfather, a loyal coach, a dedicated volunteer, Phillip Fulmer, born in Winchester, HomeGrown in Tennessee.

A big thanks to Dan Nugent, Barry Rice and Bud Ford with Tennessee Athletics for providing video and pictures for this HomeGrown story.

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