Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Memories of Coach Bryant- My Favorite 'Bear' Stories

There are thousands of stories surrounding the man and the myth of Bear Bryant. Some are humorous and some recount heroic actions or extraordinary circumstances.

One story was that Coach Bryant ran over to one of his players and barked the command: "Number 54, get in there and sack that Qb!"

The back-up player grabbed his helmet and said "I'll do my best, Coach!"


There were several stories that poked a little fun at Coach Bryant as he grew older. I can't help but guess these changed or grew with time.

One story goes that Coach Bryant started screaming, "We need to get somebody in there! Where's Jack O'Rear?"
And one of his assistants replied meekly- "He graduated 3 years ago, Coach."

Some of the stories relate to Coach Bryant's powerful motivation:

The way I remember it was that Tennessee was punting and Joey Jones (or Darryl White?) was back to receive the kick. Jones muffed the catch and the ball headed toward a number of enemy defenders. When they unpiled all the orange jerseys, Joey had recovered his own fumble.

When asked about it after the game, Joey said he was extra motivated. "All those other guys were going back to their bench... I was going to have to go back to Coach Bryant."

Another Neyland story: One of the newspaper clippings on Mr. Meadows desk tells the story of a game at Neyland stadium in Tennessee where there was a fumble on the sideline and as the players were scrambling to get it, someone knocked over a cart full of footballs and all the footballs spilled out onto the playing surface.

Tennessee recovered 5 footballs and Alabama recovered 6- so they gave the ball to Alabama.

Another 'tale' I heard was that Coach Bryant had gotten wind that Bob Baumhower, as a young player, was going to quit football. Bob called Coach Bryant's secretary to set up the meeting to give Coach Bryant the bad news.

When Bob got to the meeting the next day, he was shocked to find his mom and dad in the office with Coach Bryant. "Mr. and Mrs. Baumhower, this is the worst football player I have ever coached. Please take your son and leave. I'm sorry I wasted a scholarship on him."

And, the story goes, the meeting ended with Bob begging Coach Bryant to keep him on the team and later led to his all american college career and NFL pro-bowl appearances.


Yes, I had hair in those days!

I called Coach Bryant's secretary to set up a meeting with Coach Bryant. My little brother's birthday was coming up and I wanted to give him a birthday card signed by Coach Bryant. I wanted to 'see' the signature and be as far away from Mr. Meadow's sharpie as possible.

Once I went into the waiting area, I began to panic! What was I doing?

I was about to take up time of Coach Bear Bryant! I was shaking and I was sweating!

"Go on in" She said to me and I stumbled in on weak knees.

Today, when I go to the Bryant museum and see the his office desk and that couch, I can almost taste this memory!

He said, "Come on in, Jay!" The fact that he said my name was shocking! I had no clue that he even knew who I was. ( good secretary?).

I said, 'Card....ummm brother.....birthday.....probably don't sign unless..."

"What's your brother's name?" Crystal clear and warm.

I loosened up, "Lee, sir."

He signed it and gave it to me.

"I appreciate the job you are doing on the scout team. Keep it up. And tell Lee happy birthday."

I walked out on cloud 9!

As I was on my way out, Coach Murray Legg, great football player and then an assistant coach, was waiting with a rolled up picture of Coach Bryant.

"Going to get a signature, Coach Legg?" I asked.

He looked at me... He was panicked looking as well.

"Yeah. But I hate doing this!"

That made me feel a 'little' more manly as I slipped out the door.

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