Saturday, January 26, 2008

Coach Bryant Memories

I was quoted in the Tennessean today regarding Coach Bryant- I pasted the article below-
Two corrections- I live in Franklin not Brentwood and I played 1982 through Spring of 85

"My senior year, after the season and while we were practicing to play Oklahoma in the Bluebonnet Bowl, I was over in the cafeteria at Bryant Hall eating lunch and the dorm director came over and said, 'Coach Bryant wants to talk to you on the phone.' I said, 'Oh no, what's this all about?' That's not good when he's calling you at lunch.

"I picked up the phone and he said, 'Let me ask you something Billy. After the bowl game, do you want to go out and play in the Hula Bowl out in Hawaii?' I said, 'Well, yes I guess I would.' He said, 'I'll go ahead and arrange that. Somebody called me the other day wanting to know if we had anybody that wanted to play in it.'

"What was so amazing was the power that he had. Somebody had called him and said, 'Coach Bryant, do you have somebody you want to send us to play in the Hula Bowl?' They only had spots for four defensive backs, and they trusted and respected (him) so much that they were willing to take whomever he sent out there. He could have sent a linebacker out there and said he's playing safety, they'd have never known.

"It was a phenomenal trip. I got out there and Archie Manning was the quarterback on my team (South) and Jim Plunkett was the quarterback of the other team along with Joe Theismann."

-- Bill Blair, Brentwood (Safety, 1968-70)

"Coach Bryant had made a deal with me to play football and baseball when I went (to Alabama). It was that as a freshman there was no baseball. As a sophomore, you can play until spring football practice starts, and as you move on we'll see how that works out.

"Well, starting into my senior year, I was slated to be the starting quarterback and I got a broken toe and Scott Hunter was progressing and coming along and started beating me out. We each played about half the time my senior year.

"Before that spring practice, I was supposed to be able to play baseball. (Coach Bryant) had a meeting with me one morning at about 6:30. Of course, anytime you get a call and they say, 'Coach Bryant wants to see you,' you don't sleep the night before.

"So I met him and he said, 'We've got this deal and I wanted to know if you still want to play baseball?' I said, 'Coach I'd really like to play if it doesn't jeopardize my position playing football.' He said, 'No, I gave my word on that. I just wanted to make sure because I'm getting ready to start making out the lineups.'

"I was feeling pretty good and I got up to walk out, and I was almost out of the room when he said, 'Oh, there's one more thing – you better win the damn conference.'

"Alabama hadn't won the SEC baseball championship in 40 years. So I spread what he had said around to the team and (baseball) Coach (Joe) Sewell and damned if we didn't win the conference that year (1968)."

-- Joe Kelley, Brentwood (Quarterback, 1966-68)

"My senior year (1969) we were ranked. We had just beaten Ole Miss 33-32.

"We came up here to play Vanderbilt and we wanted to score quick and (Coach Bryant) wanted to play everybody. Well, we got beat (14-10). In the dressing room afterward, of course, nobody took their helmet off or said a word.

"He used to wear a pair of hunting boots in the wintertime. He set one up on a bench, untied it and set it to the side, then untied the other. He picked up one of them and threw it at one of those big mesh fans.

"And then he started. He said, 'Let me tell y'all something. Tonight you embarrassed me, the state of Alabama, the university, your mother and daddy, your grandparents, your siblings. The only persons you didn't embarrass were yourselves.

"We're going to get on the bus, we're going to go back, and I'm going to find out who wants to play. I'm going to try to run every one of you off. And when I do, I'm going to go over to the university and I'm going to get some of those 150 pound kids that would give their life to play for Alabama. Now, we'll get beat next week (against Tennessee), but you better not bet against us the week after that.'

"Nobody opened their mouth.

"Also, I remember when we went down to Baton Rouge to play LSU (1967). Before the game you always got off the bus and walked around the field before you went into the field house. They had that Tiger in a cage right there at our dressing room where we came out.

"They would poke that Tiger and he'd roar and they had those microphones all throughout that stadium. It was real eerie.

"Coach Bryant walked out in front of us and everybody was uptight a little bit. He looked over at that Tiger and said, 'Hell, that damn Tiger's older than I am. I wouldn't be afraid to get in there and rassle him around.' It kind of broke the monotony up."

-- Hunter Husband, Nashville (Tailback and tight end, 1967-69)

"The thing that stands out to me about Coach Bryant was what he talked to us every day about was not really the Xs and Os of football, but it was about stuff like show your class, display good character, respect your parents, be nice to folks and raise your kids to do that and everything will work out okay.

"You hear more about the inspirational stuff and the motivation before the game and so forth. But he truly every day tried to prepare us for growing up and getting a job and getting fired, and your wife running off and your dog getting run over to be able to handle the things in life that you've got to handle to keep moving on."

-- Jim Bob Harris, Brentwood (Defensive back, 1978-81)

"I had the privilege of being with Coach Bryant his last season at Alabama. I have more special memories than I could ever recount.

"When he walked into the team room, everyone sat up straight and put both feet on the floor. I used to be amazed because he seemed so hard to listen to on TV with that raspy, deep growl, but in the meetings he was animated and you understood every word.

"He would read to us a lot. He liked little quotes and neat stories.

"He always preached kicking game first, defense second, and offense last.

"He always told us how we were going to win and we believed him.

"He loved playing and winning with class.

"The team was honorary pall bearers at his funeral. I will never forget that ride to Birmingham in a Greyhound bus behind his hearse. Every inch of Interstate 59 was covered with people, including the overpasses. They stood quietly and held signs. I fought back tears the whole way.

"Growing up idolizing Bear Bryant was not a bad thing, it changed my life.

"Getting to play for him for one season was something I never will forget.

"Has it been 25 years?"

-- Jay Mathews, Brentwood (Quarterback, 82-86)

"I got married in college and I had to get his blessing basically. This was my junior year. We had beaten Auburn and still had a chance to win the national championship.

"My brother (Gary) told me it was going to be hard because he got married when he was playing at Alabama, and I didn't think it was going to be nearly as hard as what it was.

"I went by his office about five times before I had the guts to walk in. When I told him I wanted to share some plans with him he said, 'All right.' I said, 'I plan on getting married the weekend after we play the Sugar Bowl.' He said, 'You're gonna do what?' I said, 'I plan on getting married.' He said, 'You know who we're playing?' And I said, 'Yes sir, we're playing Ohio State.' The way he said it, 'No, we're playing Woody Hayes, and I've never played that you know what, and my quarterback's getting married?'

"I immediately started thinking, 'Oh my gosh, he's going to tell me no.' Then he said, 'Let me ask you some questions. Do you love her?' I was like, 'Oh, yes sir,' and it ended up being fine.

"I've got a great picture after that game of him looking down at me at the press conference and he said, 'Nice wedding present, wasn't it son?'

"I ended up getting MVP of that game so I actually played well. But I was a nervous wreck before thinking, 'If I don't play well, Oh my goodness.'"

-- Jeff Rutledge, Phoenix (Quarterback, 1975-78)

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