Tennessee football: Ranking all 15 first NFL Draft classes of Vols head coaches

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Oct 5, 2019; Knoxville, TN, USA; The General Neyland Statue outside of Neyland Stadium before a game between the Georgia Bulldogs and Tennessee Volunteers. Mandatory Credit: Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Neyland
Class: 1937 Record in 1936: 6-2-2 (3-1-2)

Number of NFL Draft picks: 1

  • Round 6: Phil Dickens – Chicago Cardinals (Pick 52)

After 1934, Robert Neyland had to leave Tennessee football the first time because he was called to duty as a general in the U.S. Army. He returned a year later to two major changes that would impact football forever: The AP Poll and the NFL Draft. His first year back, he had experience with both of those things.

UT went 6-2-2 after a 1-2-1 start to finish the year ranked No. 17. Then they had their second player ever taken in the draft. Phil Dickens played halfback for the Vols from 1934 to 1936 and was drafted as a running back. He was drafted by the then-Chicago Cardinals, who are now the Arizona Cardinals.

However, Dickens never ended up playing. Jeremy Pruitt’s first class actually had more NFL productivity with Shy Tuttle than Neyand’s first class did, but Neyland actually having a player drafted puts him on this list. Of course, Neyland would eventually load up the NFL with talent from UT, but it didn’t happen his first year.

Dickens became a college head coach, winning five straight conference titles in six years with the Wofford Terriers, coaching the Wyoming Cowboys for four years, where he went 10-0 in 1956. He then spent seven years with the Indiana Hoosiers.

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