The Majors

This is about a couple of guys with an unusual name, not about the top golf tournaments of the year. You have to admit that when you stuck your hand out and introduced yourself to a man you have never met before he probably hasn’t answered you with “I’m Major, glad to meet you”.

That probably has never happened.

But, a man named Major Ogilvie was a Running Back for the Alabama Crimson Tide from 1977 until 1980.

Ogilvie was a halfback in the Wishbone formation at Alabama under the legendary football coach Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant. The Bear, as he was affectionately known as loved to run a ball control offense and he loved to spread the ball around with several ball carriers.  So, not many of his players had big rushing numbers, but the team did over all.

Major rushed for only 184 yards as a true freshman. But, the Crimson Tide had Johnny Davis, Tony Nathan and several players split time at the other Halfback spot.  Alabama went 11-1 in 1977 and many Bama fans felt they deserved the national title.

As a sophomore in 1978, the Major ran for 583 yards and 8 touchdowns.

Alabama finished 11-1 again and was awarded the national championship after they lost early to USC, but recovered to win the SEC and beat Penn State in the Sugar Bowl.

The 1979 football season saw Ogilvie ran for 512 yards and 9 Touchdowns while the Tide went 12-0 and the Bear won another national title.

Major Ogilvie’s best game in 1979 came on their annual Third Saturday of October game against Tennessee. According to legend, the Volunteers had the Crimson Tide down 17-0 at half time and Bear Bryant supposedly said ”we have them right where we want them”. I’m not sure how much of that is true, but it makes a good story.

Major Ogilvie ran for 109 yards and he had 2 3rd quarter Touchdowns in helping the Crimson Tide come from behind to win, 27-17. Maybe the Bear did indeed have them right where he wanted them.

In his senior year  1980, the Major ran for 439 yards and 8 more Touchdowns. The Crimson Tide finished second to Georgia, and Herschel Walker, who did win the national championship. Alabama was ranked number 1 until they lost to Mississippi State, and then they lost to number 6 ranked Notre Dame. College football teams played tougher schedules in those years, it appears.

Over his 4 year career at Alabama, Major Ogilvie ran for 1,718 yards and 25 Touchdowns. Not huge numbers by any means, but that was the way it was in Bear Bryant offenses. They were solid and steady, but not spectacular. Ogilvie was just one of those guys that did everything right, but was never a super star. He was a solid Running Back that hit the hole hard, blocked well and was a good receiver.

Johnny Davis led the tide in rushing in 1977 with 931 yards and 5 Touchdowns. Tony Nathan ran for 642 yards and 15 touchdowns. 15 Touchdowns was pretty impressive considering he only had 104 total carries that season.

Nathan was probably the best player on that team and he finished with 1,997 yards at Alabama and was a 3rd round pick in the 1979 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins. Tony Nathan played 9 years in the NFL and ran for 3,543 yards total.

However, Johnny Davis was that Fullback that every Wishbone offense needs to succeed. He had 2,519 career rushing yards at Alabama and was a 2nd round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Davis was a 6-1, 235 bruiser that played Fullback in the NFL for 10 seasons.

Ogilvie went to Mountain Brook High School in Birmingham, Alabama and was an All State Running Back as well as a high school All American. Mountain Brook High School won 2 state titles while he played there and then he won 2 more titles at Alabama.

He made the Parade All American team the same year that junior Clark Broaddus made it who I wrote about here:

A cool college stat about Major Ogilvie is that he scored a Touchdown in each of Alabama’s four bowl games and was the first player in history to score a Touchdown in 4 straight New Year’s Day games.

Major Ogilvie never played in the NFL, but there’s no doubt he is a winner.

I’ve never met Larry Applewhite, but I know a lot of people that do know him. He apparently idolized Major Ogilvie and named his son after him.

Major Applewhite grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was not recruited by the hometown LSU Tigers, but was recruited by Texas A%M and committed to them.

The Texas Longhorns started recruiting Major Applewhite with John Mackovic as head coach and he switched his commitment to Texas and later signed with them. The following season, the Longhorns signed Quarterback Adam Dunn from

New Caney, Texas. Dunn wanted to play Quarterback, but Mack Brown moved him to Tight End so Dunn decided to go the baseball route, which was a wise decision since he has played 14 years in the Major Leagues and has hit 462 Home Runs.

In defense of Mack Brown, Dunn is 6-6, 285 and that’s kind of large for a Quarterback and the unheralded Major Applewhite had beaten him out, anyway.

Applewhite redshirted as a true freshman during John Mackovic’s last and most disastrous season at Texas. Mackovic was fired for a 4-7 season and they promptly hired Mack Brown. Applewhite was 3rd string QB behind Richard Walton and Greg Cicero going into the 1998 football season. Cicero was injured early and Walton went down shortly afterwards promoting Applewhite to the starting job by default. But, he and the Texas Longhorns made the best of it.

Ricky Williams was running wild for the Longhorns in 1997 and 1998. Williams broke Tony Dorsett’s collegiate career rushing record while rushing for 2124 yards as a senior and an amazing 27 Touchdowns.

Major Applewhite threw for 2,453 yards in 1998 as a redshirt freshman. Applewhite was really too small  for a Quarterback and he showed so much heart and determination that he quickly developed a cult like following in Austin, Texas. The admiration and loyalty to the Major got really ugly in 1999 as the Texas Longhorn recruiting machine landed the nation’s top Quarterback recruit, Chris Simms from Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. Obviously, Simms is the son of former NFL star and current color commentator Phil Simms and Texas fans never really warmed up to Simms.

As a sophomore, Applewhite threw for 3,357 yards and 21 Touchdowns. True freshman Chris Simms had 223 yards passing in limited playing time. Major also injured his knee in the Cotton Bowl and had to work his way back for the 2000 season.

Mack Brown opened up a can of worms by trying to work Chris Simms into the lineup in place of Major Applewhite. The Major fans were up in arms and many of them never forgave Brown, or Chris Simms.

In the 2000 season, the Quarterback controversy came to an ugly name calling war between the Major Applewhite fans and the fans that supported Chris Simms.

Applewhite threw for 2,164 yards and 21 touchdowns while Simms had 1,064 yards and 8 Touchdowns. They both had 7 Interceptions.

Mack Brown moved Simms into the starting role in Major Applewhite’s senior season which made the cult members livid and for good reason. Simms threw for 2,603 yards and 22 Touchdowns. Applewhite’s numbers dropped to 379 yards and 2 Touchdowns in a very limited role as back up to Simms.

Texas made the 2001 Big 12 Championship game and Simms had the worst game of his life and the Horns were getting trounced by the Colorado Buffaloes. With the Longhorns down 29-10 and Simms turning the ball over 4 times the booing Texas fans were glad to see Simms injuring a finger on his throwing hand. Applewhite entered the game and rallied the team to within 2 points of the Buffaloes. A dropped pass in the End Zone allowed Colorado to win the game 39-37.

Applewhite saved maybe his very best game for the end and Mack Brown named him the starter for the Holiday Bowl game against the Washington Huskies. Applewhite threw for 473 yards and 4 Touchdowns in leading Texas from behind and a win over the Huskies.

There was some interest in Applewhite by NFL teams, but he had it in his mind that he was going to coach and he had bad knees by then. He took a job as a graduate assistant at Texas under the coach that benched him, Mack Brown.

My favorite supposed quote from Major Applewhite came when some random fan came up to him at a gas station or some other venue and the rabid fan had a Texas football jersey on with Major’s number 11 on it. The fan, clearly a cult member, pulled on his own shirt showing Applewhite that he was a fan of his instead of Simms. Cleverly, if the urban legend is true, Applewhite said “grown men shouldn’t wear jerseys.”

That’s probably a myth, but I still love the story. I’ve never worn another football jersey since I took my own off last and I never intend to do so in the future.

Applewhite first paying job was as Quarterbacks coach at Syracuse, but was only there for a year before moving on to Rice and working for Todd Graham as his Quarterback coach and Offensive Coordinator. In 2007, Applewhite went to work for Nick Saban at Alabama in the same positions.

Major Applewhite then went back to his own school and to work for the coach that benched him for Chris Simms. So very quickly those fans that loved Major so much as a player  turned on him as a coach.

Applewhite was out of football after the 2013 season and Mack Brown was no longer coaching at Texas.

But, recently, Ohio State Offensive Coordinator Tom Herman took the job at the University of Houston for the 2015 season and has hired Major Applewhite as his Offensive Coordinator.

Believe it or not, there is at least one more former college football player named Major and that would be Major Harris an All-American Quarterback at West Virginia in the 1980s.

Major Harris grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and was one of the most highly recruited players in his graduating class. Harris was supposedly interested in Pittsburgh, the home town school, but they only wanted him as a  Defensive Back.

Major Harris then decided to attend West Virginia because they wanted him as a Quarterback.

Harris started at West Virginia as a freshman in 1987, but it did not happen without his share of struggles. He threw for over 1,200 yards and ran for just over 600 yards.

Major Harris and West Virginia got the kinks worked out for the 1988 season and finished undefeated. Harris threw for over 1,900 yards and 14 Touchdowns while running for over 600.

The West Virginia Mountaineers got their first ever shot at a national title in the Fiesta Bowl against #1 ranked Notre Dame. The Irish beat the Mountaineers 34-21 to win their last national

championship. Harris saw his reputation soar like never before.

Harris was a preseason All-American for his junior season and he was outstanding. However, the Mountaineers didn’t have quite as much talent surrounding him. He threw for over 2,000 yards and ran for just a bit under 1,000 in his best season yet.

West Virginia lost to Clemson in the the Gator Bowl, 27-7.

Major Harris, as so many others do, declared for the NFL after his junior season. Problem was, Harris was not a real NFL Quarterback prospect.

He wound up being drafted by Oakland in the 12th round, but never made it there. He signed with British Columbia of the Canadian Football League, but he was injured and never played there, either. He was a star in the Arena Football League and Minor League Football.

But, he should have stayed in school like so many others.

There was still another Major playing college football in Major Wright.

Major Wright grew up in Florida and played for the famous St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

St Thomas Aquinas leads the nation in number of ex-athletes that are presently in the NFL. The list of former graduates in not only football but in other sports as well is mind boggling. Michael Irving, Brian Piccolo, Geno Atkins, Joey Bosa and Lamarcus Joyner are just a small few of the former St Thomas Aquinas football players. Other sport stars include former tennis player Chris Everett, golfer Jason Dufner and track star Sonya Richards-Ross and the lists go on and on.

Wright was a former 4 to 5 star recruit and after a recruiting battle, Major decided to commit to Urban Meyer and the Florida Gators.

Major Wright started 7 games as a true freshman in the 2007 season and made freshmen All-American teams.

Wright started every game in his sophomore season and was third on the team in tackles. He picked off 4 passes and returned 1 of them for a Touchdown. His best game of the year may have come in the national championship game against Oklahoma. Wright had 9 tackles and an interception against the Sooners and their Heisman Trophy winning Quarterback, Sam Bradford.

Major Wright did not have a good junior season, but like most everyone else from the modern era, he decided to forgo his senior season to enter the NFL Draft.

The Chicago Bears took Major Wright in the 3rd round of the 2010 NFL Draft and he played for the Bears for 3 seasons.

When Chicago Bear coach Lovie Smith was named the head coach at Tampa Bay, Major Wright signed a contract with the Buccaneers and he is still with them for the 2015 season.

This is the tale of 4 football players that were given the name of Major. Major Ogilvie of Alabama, Major Applewhite of Texas, Major Harris of West Virginia and Major Wright of Florida were all good in their own ways. If I were picking the best of the bunch based on NFL playing time the clear winner is Major Wright. al

Alabama fans would say that Ogilvie was the best of the Majors. Texas fans would claim Applewhite, and the Mountaineers would surely say Harris.

All of them were good and they all were a MAJOR part of their own team’s history and were fun to follow as a fan.

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