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Front Page - Friday, November 27, 2009

UT legend Bobby Majors talks life, football and life after football

Growing up in a large family is a unique experience that many people don’t understand. But growing up in the Majors family – Tennessee’s first family of football – with a string of athletically talented siblings and two parents that support all they do, is another thing entirely.
“The reason I don’t know how to swim and the reason I don’t like water is because I was always on dry land playing football, basketball, baseball and golf,” Majors says. “I have pictures of me at 2 or 3 years old, throwing and kicking a football. That was just it. That was how we were raised.”
His father, Shirley, referred to often as a patriarch of Southern football, coached at the University of the South in Sewanee for 21 years. His brother Johnny was a standout tailback at the University of Tennessee who went on to become head coach at the school, and later of the University of Pittsburgh. His brother Joe played at Florida State; Bill at UT. His sister Shirley Ann played basketball through high school (there was no college ball for girls back then) and Larry played tailback for their father at Sewanee.
Yes, it’s hard to deny your fate when you come from a family like that, but instead of riding the coattails of his siblings, Bobby took the opportunity to make a name for himself. The youngest Majors rounded out the family’s 19-season football era as free safety and punt returner for the Tennessee Vols.
“We always thought we were the best,” Bobby says of his athletic family, and a quick Google search proves that many people agree.
“You can’t believe everything you read,” he says, smiling. “But we were competitive, and still are.”
In fact, he and John still get together a few times a year for some healthy, spirited rounds golf.
“It’s like we’re teenagers out there, just beating each other up,” Bobby says. “He’s always wanting too many strokes. We always have a good time gigging each other, when it’s all said and done. It’s a good, competitive atmosphere while it’s going on, but when it’s over with, it’s over with.”
In the same breath, however, he elaborates on his lifelong competition with his eldest brother. John was honored earlier this year during UT’s Legends of the Game, and, as most siblings would, he called his brother Bobby to tell him about the award.
“He said, ‘I’m very proud of it,’” Bobby says. “And I said, ‘Yeah, but there’s one thing you forget – a very important fact that you forget. I was a legend before you were. I was one two years ago.”
And Bobby, who is currently on the nomination ballot for the College Sports Hall of Fame, is used to catching a hard time from John, who was inducted in 1987.
“If I get it, it will be a wonderful feather in my cap,” he says. If not, he is still very proud of every aspect of his life. And while he still watches the Big Orange play on his big screen at home, Bobby now spends less time playing sports and more time embodying the parenting style he grew up with.
“Both of our parents were fair people,” he says. “They let us make up our own minds in a lot of ways. They never did try to sway us. They gave us the positives and the negatives of just about every situation … They never did say, ‘No. You’re not going to do that. That’s a bad decision.’ I never heard that in my life.”
And despite the fame and glory of being a star football player, Bobby admits he has made a few bad decisions in his life. One thing he regrets above all else is pursuing a career in the NFL without completing college.
“I regret to this day that I never did get my degree,” he says. “When I go give talks and give my testimony, especially to young people, I always emphasize how important that is and how much I regret not doing it. Hopefully that will have an impression on some kid, male or female, and make a difference.”
After spending two years with the Cleveland Browns and one with Memphis in the World Football League, Bobby went into sales to support his family. He sold everything from corrugated boxes to computers to printing paper, and was quite a natural. But when the senior PGA Golf Tour was created, he recognized a familiar, nagging feeling in the pit of his stomach; it was the sports bug.
“I have always regretted that I did not pursue professional golf back when I was in college,” he says. And in his late 30s, he realized that the last thing he wanted was to turn 60, only to look back with even more regrets about not going out for the Senior Tour at age 50.
And, as history has proven, when a Majors sets his mind to something, he makes it happen. Bobby pursued the Senior Golf Tour for two years, and qualified and played in the Senior US Open in 2001. After fulfilling that dream, he returned home to Tennessee.
Bobby then bought a chemical manufacturing business from a friend who was retiring and successfully ran that company for a couple years. Then, he met a man who had been formulating various chemicals for several dozen years. The two began brainstorming and, before long, Bobby’s current company, Chemical Services South, was born.
“He really has a God-given talent with what he does,” Bobby says. “We’ve probably got 500 different products that we make, and he does them in his head. He’s been doing this so long; it’s phenomenal.”
Today, four-and-a-half years later, Chemical Services South produces just about everything a person can think of related to cleaning, be it janitorial, carwash, commercial dishwashing or commercial laundries.
The majority of his products are sold wholesale to distributors, with a small percentage being sold directly to smaller operations, like carwashes and local municipalities. And while Bobby defers credit for the making of his chemicals, his personable demeanor has surely had something to do with the success of his company.
“I’m not a creative person,” he says. “I’m an old football player and a salesman.”
Bobby is asked often to appear at different speaking engagements – sometimes for sports banquets, but most often in houses of worship. He accepted Jesus Christ as his savior on March 7, 1993, and has been speaking to groups of people, free of charge, about his faith, his career and his life ever since.