Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Dr. Gary White: Memories of Coach Bryant

Every Jan. 26, I post a remembrance of Coach Bear Bryant who passed away on Jan. 26, 1983. These posts are on my blog, jayopsis.com, but I also keep them at one site: 


I am more than THRILLED to have this year's post from Dr. Gary White. I asked him in early January to consider being a guest contributor, and was SO HAPPY that he chose to submit his tribute. 

Dr. Gary White was inducted into the Etowah County Sports Hall of Fame in 2015. Here is the bio from that induction ceremony:

Dr. Gary White had a strong career working for the University of Alabama, beginning when he was a student manager from 1957 to 1961. He later worked for the school as a graduate assistant football coach, a football dorm director, an administrative assistant in the athletic department and as assistant and associate athletic director before retiring in 1996. He also was a talent scout for the Dallas Cowboys in 1962 and 1963. (source: The Gadsden Times, April 12, 2015)

Dr. White was especially helpful to me when I first stepped on campus in August of 1982. He worked extremely hard to take care of me and he constantly encouraged me in my walk with Christ.

I hope you enjoy what he wrote as much as I have!

Dr White writes:

It was at the end of the 1957 University of Alabama football season my freshman year that we first learned that a man by the name of Coach Paul Bryant had been hired as the Athletic Director and Head Football Coach.

We were coming off of a third losing season under Coach Whitworth. (note: Jennings B. "Ears" Whitworth was 4-24-2 in his time as Alabama's head coach from 1955- 1957) 

No one had heard of Coach Bryant other than the fact he was Athletic Director and Head Football Coach at Texas A&M.We knew he had been successful there, but did not know the full story especially what he put their team through at Junction,Texas an old army outpost of some sort.

It didn’t take us long to realize he was a 'no nonsense' coach and that he was all business. He met with the varsity and laid out his plan for how we were going to turn the football program around. He had few rules, just enough to know the little things would make the difference. He told the team that day, "Everyone does the big things, but are you willing to do all the little things that make the difference between winning and losing?"

He also told them, in very plain terms,  if they were not willing to work hard and make a sacrifice that he would help them go somewhere else to play ball.

There were 150 players on scholarship at that meeting. 

In the fall of 1958, our first game with LSU in Mobile there were only 36 on the travel squad.
In the middle of the season, we played Tennessee in Knoxville and we were down two more.

The demand for sacrifice, hard work, and doing all the little things left us with 33 players on both sides of the ball because one of the 34 was a red shirt! 

Soon after that first meeting with the team, Coach Bryant called all the managers to his office. There were about 20 of us. Some I had never seen before that day.  (My high school coach, Jerry Watford - an All SEC guard at Alabama- had put in a good word for me and I had received a partial manager's scholarship). 

Coach Bryant looked at us for a few minutes before telling us- "You are all fired, except the head manager. I may hire you back if you prove to me that you are willing to work."

I had grown up working, so that didn’t bother me a bit and I went after it with everything I had. 

So at the beginning of the season, being a true man of his word, Coach Bryant hired me back. At that point there were now only two of us- the head manager and me! We started that 1958 season as the only two managers. Then, at mid-season, the head manager graduated... and I was the only manager left!

And so I worked for Coach Bryant .... for 24 years.... and I knew I could fully trust him. He was a man of his word. In all of those years, he never once lied to me.

That same truth was evident in what he told his players.

The freshmen in the fall of 1958 composed his first signing class. I was in his very first meeting with them and he gave his word to them. 

"If you do everything we ask of you, in four years you will be national champions." 

And in four years, because they believed him, that first signing class were crowned the 1961 National Football Champions.

And that team set the bar for all teams to follow. Coach Bryant’s teams won national championships in 1961, 1964, 1965,1973, 1978 and 1979!

During football recruiting season we would meet with the recruits and their families collectively.

Coach Bryant told every recruiting class the same thing:  "If you come here, the only thing you will receive is a scholarship which consists of tuition, fees, room and board along with the opportunity to play football."

As I listened to this year after year, I knew the meaning.... we were going to abide by the rules. 

I also enjoyed hearing him say to these young men, "At Alabama, I want you to to grow spiritually, mentally, and physically... in that order."

(Over the course of his service, Dr. White wore many hats and was promoted to a valuable role in Athletics Administration)

One of my duties in Coach Bryant's last years was to keep his personal books after hours.

I can’t and won’t mention the countless number of churches he supported financially.

For 12 years after I was saved,  I was also the advisor to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes on campus.

At the end of each year, Coach Bryant would hand me a generous check to fund our FCA Chapter for the year. We met each Wednesday night and at the end of our program, we would have refreshments simply because of Coach Bryant’s generous heart! So when he told the recruits he wanted them to grow spiritually, he backed it up by helping the FCA.

Coach Bryant was a players coach.

He loved his players.

He expected a lot out of them in practice and games, but he didn’t expect any less of himself.

It was truly a blessing for me to have the opportunity to work for him those twenty four years!


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