George Cafego had six dollars and a borrowed suitcase when he arrived at UT in 1936. Cafego considered it a miracle that Coach Robert Neyland came to a baseball field in the summer of 1936 to look at an infielder who played tailback in the fall. Cafego’s parents were deceased, and his married sister couldn’t afford to have him live with her, so he was essentially homeless—bunking down at the homes of high school coaches or wherever he was offered a temporary place to stay. He played halfback under Coach Neyland, serving principally as tailback and safety.
At UT he compiled 2,139 total yards, two All-American team selections, and was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. In addition to running and passing the ball, Cafego also served as punter and kickoff returner, excelling at both. His nickname was Bad News. He was a member of the 1939 squad, which shut out every opponent.
He was drafted as a number one overall pick in 1940 by the Chicago Cardinals and eventually played for the Brooklyn Dodgers. After playing one season, his career was interrupted by a brief stint of army service in World War II. Returning to the Dodgers in 1943, he was traded to the Washington Redskins after five unspectacular games. For the 1944 and 1945 seasons, Cafego played for the Boston Yanks before retiring. He began his coaching career at Furman, following that up with stops at Wyoming and Arkansas, before returning to coach at his alma mater from 1955 to 1984. He has been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.