Jackie Sherrill, who coached with the late John Majors in Pittsburgh, will be the Panthers’ honorary captain in their game against Tennessee on Saturday in Knoxville.
Both teams will also play next season at Pitt. The series has been dubbed the Johnny Majors Classic in honor of the Majors, who died in June 2020 at the age of 85. The majors have been head coaching at Pitt and Tennessee, including two different stints at Pitt.
âCoach Majors means a lot to both schools, and he means a lot to me,â Sherrill told ESPN. “He was the one who started me as a coach, and we were very tight until he passed.”
Sherrill will speak to the Pitt team before the game. He and Majors coached together for five years at Iowa State (1968-72) and were together for three years at Pitt (1973-75). The majors guided Pitt to an unbeaten season and a national championship in 1976 before moving to Tennessee, his alma mater, the following season.
Tony Dorsett, whom Sherrill helped recruit for Pitt before taking the Washington state head coach job in 1976, won the Heisman Trophy during the Panthers’ national championship season. Sherrill returned to Pitt as head coach from 1977 to 1981 after the Majors left for Tennessee and won 11 games in each of his last three seasons before leaving for the head coach position of the Texas A&M.
âThe Coach Majors have set the tone for these great teams and will always be loved by the people of Pitt,â said Sherrill.
Sherrill, 77, told ESPN he was fortunate enough to speak with the majors by phone the day before his death.
“He called me and we talked for an hour and a half,” said Sherrill. “He was in a good mood and said he was feeling good and kept saying, ‘I want to come see you.’ I told him my grandchildren live in Nashville and we are due to meet up in Nashville later this month. It’s still hard to believe he’s gone. We had so many good times together. was always teasing, I think we only had one crossword in all the years I worked for him. “
Sherrill led Pitt to a 30-6 victory over the Majors and the Vols in 1980 at Neyland Stadium, the first meeting between the schools. Dan Marino was part of the 1980 Pitt team, although he missed the Tennessee game with injury, as did defensive lineman Hugh Green, who finished second this season in the ballot for the Heisman trophy.
âIt was a long time ago, but it will be great to be back and honor one of the best men and coaches I have met,â said Sherrill, who won two national championships as a player playing in Alabama for Bear Bryant. .