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John Michels

• Jan 12, 2019 at 4:14 PM

KINGSPORT - John Michels, of Kingsport, passed away quietly in the presence of his beloved wife in Kingsport, TN on January 10th, 2019, one month short of his 88th birthday.

Born in Philadelphia on February 15th, 1931, John was an outstanding high school football player for West Catholic High School in Philadelphia. Heavily recruited as a high school senior, he elected to play with the legendary General Robert Neyland at the University of Tennessee in 1948. He continued his outstanding football performance, earnings consensus all Southeast Conference honors as a guard in 1951 and 1952 and consensus All-American honors in 1952. He also won the Jacobs Trophy as the outstanding blocker in the Southeast Conference in 1952.

While at Tennessee he met his wife Jo Ann and they married in 1953. Drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1953, he had a brief stint in the NFL, interrupted by service in the United States Army from 1954 through 1956. Leaving Philadelphia, he played one year in the Canadian Football League where he met and formed a lifelong friendship and professional association with player-coach Bud Grant. John coached one year at Texas A&M and then returned to coach with Grant in Winnipeg for 8 years, winning three CFL Grey Cup championships in the process. Leaving Winnipeg in 1967, John moved with Grant to Minneapolis where John remained as a Viking assistant coach for 27 years. During this time he coached the offensive line, except for 1984, when he coached the running backs. He retired in 1993 as the longest-tenured assistant coach in Vikings’ history.

At the time of his retirement John had coached four NFL Hall of Fame players, appeared in the Vikings’ only Super Bowls, and won an NFL Championship. After his retirement he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and the University of Tennessee and Tennessee Sports Hall Halls of Fame.

He was widely respected by his peers and beloved by his players, many of whom stayed in contact with him after their NFL careers were over. An avid military and Civil War war historian, John read extensively and enjoyed touring battlefields up and down the East Coast. He retired to Gatlinburg, in the mountains of East Tennessee, a place that he loved since his collegiate career. But his greatest pleasure remained his family; he doted on his children and grandchildren and took enormous pleasure and pride in their accomplishments.

John is survived by his wife of 65 years, Jo Ann; children, John, Steve (Denise), Lela (Keith) and Sarah (Paul); grandchildren, John Michels III and Evan Michels, Michael and Perry Cooper, and Anders Dunkel; siblings, Matthew and Loretta; along with several nieces.

Services will be conducted at a later date.

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