There’s a bit of a dispute because of how stats are determined whether or not J.W. Sherrill or Bobby Majors belongs in the record books for the most single-season interceptions. UTSports says Sherrill had nine interceptions in 1949.
However, news archives from that time period, including this United Press International story by Steve Holland in 1982 as Terry Hoage racked up 12 interceptions with the Georgia Bulldogs, recognizes 12 interceptions by Sherrill. If this one is accurate, Sherrill is the all-time leader in interceptions for the Vols.
On the other hand, if it is only nine, we still have to put Sherrill at No. 4 on this list. Getting nine or 12 interceptions in that time, when nobody threw it, is incredible. Sherrill also racked up offensive yards, including a 29-yard receiving touchdown and 10 rushing yards. With no All-American honors, he clearly belongs on this list. Sherrill is a name you might forget about from 1949.
Notable Vols from then are Doug Atkins, Hank Lauricella, Ted Daffer and Bill Pearman, all key components of the 1950 and 1951 national title teams. But after Robert Neyland had back to back .500 seasons, Sherrill’s play in his defense-focused system was a key reason for him going 7-2-1 and finishing No. 17 in 1949 to set the stage for a return to dominance in the early 1950s.