My only personal encounter with Coach Bryant happened in about 1961. I was in junior high school and around 13 or 14 years old. One of my friends lived next door to Coach Bryant (off 15th Street). My friend, myself and some more buddies were playing football on a vacant lot just down the street from Coach Bryant's house late one afternoon when a big white Cadillac drove up and pulled over to watch us. We all immediately knew who it was, wow the "Bear", and we all ran over to his car. He said, with that gravelly voice of his, "Boys, you keep practicing and who knows, one of these days you might be playing for me over at the University" and then he just laughed. We were all blown away, the "Bear" scouting us! I can't tell you how it made us feel. We were on cloud nine. I had grown up following the Tide and would do anything to go see them play, including selling Cokes, programs, peanuts, hot dogs, or ushering to get in. One of my family friends, Billy Neighbors was playing then. What memories. Those were the days!
submitted by Jack Norris
On October 2, 1982, I was 15 years old and had driven the 500 miles from Largo, Florida to Tuscaloosa with my best friend whose older brother was a student at the University. The drive to Legion Field to see my first college football game was exciting enough--- that it was Alabama made it that much more unforgettable. We got there early so we could see the buses unload and watch the Ceremonial Walk. I will never forget seeing Coach Bryant leaning on the goal post...in real life...not on a magazine cover. I watched Bama beat Arkansas State from the student section and knew that I had to come to Alabama and that somehow...I had to play for Bear Bryant. I didn’t get to play for the Bear, but I walked on in 1986 and earned the Bear Bryant Best Walk-on award in 1988. I played enough to letter, made the best friends anyone could have, got my degree and married an Alabama girl, and now live in Huntsville. I will never forget October 2, 1982.
submitted by joe demos
In 1982, Alabama was recruiting our quarterback, Louis Dean. He played for my dad, Lester Smith, at Foley High School. We drove up for the home game against Southern Miss that year. Reggie Collier was the quarterback and he had a great day, beating Alabama 39 to 28 as I recall. It was the first home loss they had suffered in 57 games dating back to 1963 I believe. Coach Bryant had to be awfully hurt and disappointed but I remember getting to meet him afterwards and shaking hands with him. We all commented later how gracious and kind he was even in defeat. I am sure that he did not feel like talking to anyone but he took the time to make us all feel very special. The next week, I got a personal letter from Coach Bryant thanking us for making the trip. It was written less than two months before he died and is my most prized possession to this day.
submitted by Keith Smith
Several years before Coach Bryant died; I was working as an electrician at the University of Alabama. My sister was a registered nurse at Montclair Hospital in Birmingham. She had a terminally ill patient that was an old friend of Coach Bryant and he wanted to talk to Coach. I went to the Coliseum to Coach Bryant's office. I told the lady at the front desk why I wanted to see Coach Bryant. She told me to go on back to his office. I knocked on his open door. He said, "Come on in and have a seat." As I sat down he said, "What can I do for you son?" I explained to him about his old friend who was in the hospital that wanted to talk to him. Coach Bryant thanked me for the information. He picked up his phone and said to someone, "Cancel all appointments for the day and have my car brought to the front of the Coliseum.” Then, he thanked me and we went out of his office together.
submitted by Joe F. Black
I would like to say that I live in central Louisiana, in the heart of Tiger Country. Everyone here believes in LSU except me. I am a BAMA fan all the way, heart and soul. Most of all I am a Bear Bryant fan. Started following Coach Bryant in 1960. I have every book that has been written. My game room has a crimson pool table and Alabama area rug. Most of all the walls are covered from floor to ceiling with Bear Bryant photos and collectibles. In Louisiana, they say I will bleed crimson and white. I would like to think that there are “Bear” Bryant fans all over the country. When Coach Bryant died, I drove all the way to Alabama for the funeral. He was and still is my mentor in life. People tell me how hard he was and that he expected too much, I just say he was a winner.
submitted by GLENN JONES
We were at the 1973 Sugar Bowl game when Notre Dame beat Alabama 24-23. The morning after we went to Brennan's for breakfast. As we walked in, we saw Coach Bryant with Coach Parseghian and their wives walking down the stairs after having breakfast together. After a devastating loss, here is an example of Coach Bryant's great sportsmanship.
submitted by Bob Hewes
I felt very honored to be asked to be Coach Bryant and his wife’s escort at The National Tribute to Coach Bryant in Washington D.C. for his retirement.
submitted by Don Barron
My late father used to run the Chevron station at the intersection of McFarland Boulevard and Rice Mine Road from 1975 to 1985. One day, a dignified woman in a large black automobile pulled up to the gas pumps, my father happened to wait on her. She said, "Sir, I'm almost out of gas, but I left my purse at home. I'm wondering if I could get gas on credit and come back to pay you?” My father replied, "What's your name?" I'm Mary Harmon Bryant." My father almost fainted and almost fell out. He said. "Mrs. Bryant, you can have anything in this station you want." He filled up her car and she came back later to pay him. We had a large number of Alabama football players who did business with us. We didn't break any NCAA rules, but we took great care of them. My own recollection of Coach Bryant is one day I went out to the old Harry Pritchett Golf Course next to the VA. The counter lady was the mother of a high school friend of mine. She told me Coach Bryant was out on the driving range where I was headed anyway. Coach left before I left, but I was petrified the entire time he and I were out there, and I did poorly. Just before he left, I turned around and introduced myself. I was scared to death. He was nice enough to shake my hand and then he left. I didn't bother to engage in small talk as I knew he was busy. I was walking on air for about two weeks afterwards.
submitted by James B. Simms
Meeting Coach Bryant: Coach would attend the George Lindsey celebrity golf event in Montgomery. I believe this was 1974. My friend, Mike Burrows, and I were following him for a few holes and after a tee shot he invited us to walk down the fairway with him. We shook hands, introducing ourselves and he asked where we went to school and where we played football, etc. Coach was swinging the driver back and forth as we walked and he hit Mike on the ankle with it. Mike dare not let Coach Bryant know that it hurt like the devil or show a limp! Mike and I were so humbled to have that short few minutes to share, just the three of us.
submitted by Randy Carr
I am 71 years old and was able to attend all of the Bear’s games at Legion Field. I had to usher or a get a ticket another way. I can always remember Bear and his walk around the field with his players. He would always come over to the fence to talk to a person in a wheelchair, but the crowd would get so big he would have to quickly say something to them and walk away.
submitted by Larry Pickett
In 1970, I was a sophomore and would get to practice early some days to get myself fired up for practice. On this particular day, I was the only person down in the dressing room area in the coliseum in the big long hallway. I was at the bulletin board and checking the depth chart because you always had to check to see where Coach Bryant had you listed. It was at the very end of the hallway closest to the practice field. All of a sudden I heard the door slam on the other end of the hallway and it was Coach Bryant. I froze and did not know what to do. As he walked down the hallway towards me which felt like an eternity and he reached me all I could do was say, “Hey Coach” and move back. He said hey back and took his black felt pen and wrote in big letters on the top of the depth chart “NO PADS.” He then looked at me with a little smile and said, “I lost my guts.” I just smiled back and nodded my head and chuckled. He went back down the hall and after that I was so relieved that was all over with.
submitted by Joe LaBue
submitted by Ray Morgan
In the spring of 1959, I received my degree and went to work for a sales consulting firm in Birmingham, Alabama. On July 7th, the company operator said I had a long distance phone call. I was busy and almost didn't take the call, but I had premonition and took it anyway. I said hello and Coach Bryant's voice (you could not mistake his voice) said, "I have been to the SEC conference office and they have given you another year of eligibility. "Have you ever thought about graduate school?" I replied that I had considered law school but felt since I was married that I should go to work. He then said, "Be in Tuscaloosa by August 4th and I will have you enrolled in law school and an apartment for you and your wife. I need a kicker and you're it." There was never a doubt about what I would do and on August 3rd: Joyce and I moved to Tuscaloosa.
submitted by Fred Sington, Jr.
I was dorm mates with an exchange student and he was invited to meet Coach Bryant in his office. I decided to be a plus one. Upon entering the office Coach Bryant was sitting behind a large desk. He rose and shook the hand of every student and posed for pictures. Just meeting him and listening to him, we knew we were in the presence of greatness. I still treasure the picture!
submitted by Mark Bennett
This story demonstrates how Coach Bryant helped others in small, but impactful ways. My late husband, David White, walked on the Alabama basketball team as a freshman in 1966. He earned a scholarship each year, and graduated with a business degree in 1971. In early 1972, David applied for a job with a mortgage insurance company, MGIC, based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and a leader in the field at that time. David had put the athletic department as a reference on his resume, thinking that they could call one of his coaches, or an administrator perhaps. Well, he got the job. He found out later, talking to the Human Resources person for the company, that they had indeed called the athletic department, talked with Sam Bailey, and then Coach Bailey connected them immediately with Coach Bryant! Coach Bryant gave David a great recommendation, and added that "David was a fine little football player at Tuscaloosa High School, too.” David went on to have a wonderful 30+ year career with MGIC before his passing in 2004, and was convinced that it was Coach who helped him get the job!
submitted by Sarah Parkhouse
It was almost midnight on January 2, 1978. My wife Sandra and I were standing in the hallway near the elevator outside our 8th floor room at the Hyatt in New Orleans. We were leaning over the rail and looking into the atrium below where Tide fans were wildly celebrating our 35-6 defeat over Ohio State. Suddenly we heard the elevator ding and it stopped on our floor. Out stepped Billy Varner. I knew Coach Bryant had to step out next, and sure enough he did. We were so stunned (like stage fright) that we could only stand perfectly still and stare. He passed us with a nod and headed down to Sam Bailey's room where he stayed for about 15 minutes. Of course we froze in place waiting for him to come back. When he came back toward the elevator we spoke to him; "Hello Coach...Roll Tide." He stopped and put his arm around Sandra and said: "Look down there. Do you see any Ohio State fans partying? Hell no, they've all gone home with their tail between their legs." We both laughed at his jubilant remarks and he asked, “Did you graduate from the University?” Sandra said, "We did not graduate from Alabama but we are the biggest Tide fans in the country." Coach said, "Darlin' its people like you that make our University great. Alabama would not be where we are without people like you." Talk about making your day! My wife is deceased now and I will never forget that moment. It meant the world to both of us. Roll Tide, Coach!
submitted by Ron Stone
submitted by David Hannah
My most fond memories of Coach Bryant have always been the times that I would sit and watch every game when he was on the sidelines. The first time I ever watched a football game that I can recall was the 1973 Sugar Bowl between Alabama and Notre Dame. I was only 8 years old and that was when my love affair for Alabama football started. Most games during that time were always televised on ABC. I believe no one loved to commentate more on Coach Bear Bryant and/or Alabama football than Keith Jackson. Keith called the Sugar Bowl games in the 70s, my favorite being The Goal Line Stand against Penn State, and later when he broke Stagg's record to become college football's most winning coach.
submitted by John E. Johnson
My parents and I always traveled to away games and tried to stay at the team hotels. I was about 10 years old when we traveled to Nashville to play the Vanderbilt Commodores. We stayed next to the stadium at the Holiday Inn. Coach Bryant would eat breakfast in the hotel restaurant and no one seemed to bother him. That Friday night, after the team arrived and settled in, we learned that President Gerald Ford was also in Nashville for an event. I remember President Ford coming to visit Coach Bryant at the hotel. Everyone was in awe and stood in the doorway to watch the President make his way to the elevators (with Secret Service, in tow). WOW! For a President to come visit Coach Bryant was truly unbelievable to me. It made me realize how special Coach Bryant was and how the University of Alabama was recognized because of him and his teams!
submitted by BJ Noble Guenther
I want to share my memory of meeting Coach Bryant. I was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama on the west end in Central Park. I was lucky in that both of my parents were absolute Alabama fans. When I was 14 we moved to Tennessee of all places. When I was 16 we were back in Birmingham for my sister's wedding. We were staying at the old Airport Ramada Inn. My parents went to the rehearsal dinner that Friday night and I was going to hang out with my friends from the old neighborhood. They came to the hotel room to pick me up and after hanging out for a minute we left to go to a party. As we were walking down the hall way I noticed a tall older man with what looked like a police officer. As we got closer I realized it was Coach Bryant. To say we were star struck would be an understatement. We all ran up to him and introduced ourselves and he took the time to shake our hands and spend a few minutes with us. At this point, he was near the end of his career and he just looked tired. I made the comment that we needed to leave as we had taken too much of his time. He stopped me and asked my name again and where I lived. I told him David Brackner and I live in Waverly, Tennessee. He asked if I was a Volunteer fan and I told him, “No sir.” Then I went on to explain my situation in addition to how I missed home and my love for the Crimson Tide. At that point he wished us well and told us to be careful. If the story ended there it would have been more than enough for me, but about three weeks later I received an envelope from The University that had an autographed picture with a personal note that told me to keep my faith while amongst all that orange. To this day I've never figured out how he got my address or remembered my name, but the memory of that chance encounter and the autographed photo are two of the most cherished things in my life.
submitted by David Brackner
In 1975, not only as a student at The University of Alabama, I was a dedicated Crimson Tide football fan. My Mother, Jo Anne Bean, and I came up with the idea that Alabama needed a mascot. We decided on an elephant, then contacted a costume place in New Orleans and had an elephant and a bear costume sent to my Mother's house to have some sort of pattern to go by. With help from family and friends, the costumes were made in time for the Alabama/Auburn game. One of my sorority sisters wore the Bear costume, which was brown with a red houndstooth hat and I wore the red Elephant costume with white A's on the ears to the Alabama/Auburn pep rally. The crowd loved it and went wild. We had our picture in the paper the next day and was talked about on the TV sports segments. Next step was to get a field pass for the game at Legion Field. I called Coach Bryant's office to get an appointment because he was also the Athletic Director as well as Head Coach and the only one who could issue field passes. There is no way to describe how nervous I was to meeting with Coach Bryant. I walked into his office and sat down in a chair across from his desk right in front of him. He told me he had seen me at the pep rally and knew I wanted a field pass. Coach Bryant said that the true mascot of Alabama was the Crimson Tide, then told me the story of a reporter comparing Alabama football players to a thundering herd of elephants and he didn't like it. By that time, my nerves took over and I started to cry and told Coach Bryant I knew the true mascot was The Crimson Tide, but it would be hard to dress up like a wave and roll around. He laughed a little bit at that and said "Little lady, please don't cry. I know you went to a lot of trouble to make that costume and I'm going to give you the field pass". I really wanted to jump up and hug him, but didn't dare. As I was leaving his office in such a hurry, I almost knocked Coach Ken Donahue down coming out the door. Walking onto Legion Field for the Alabama/Auburn football game as The University of Alabama Mascot was like a dream come true. I had a great time cheering with the cheerleaders and getting lots of pictures made with the fans. My Mother was so excited and proud of me.
Alabama was picked to play Penn State in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. We would be the first teams to play in the new Superdome. This time when I called Coach Bryant's office for a field pass I was told to come by and pick it up, that I didn't have to see Coach Bryant because he has already issued one for me. I was thrilled beyond words. When time came to walk out onto the field in the Superdome, I got chills all over. The fans cheered and took lots of pictures. The Penn State Nittany Lion Mascot came over and we talked and acted like we were fighting. When Coach Bryant walked onto the field before the game for the team to warm up, I walked over to him and stuck out my hand, he shook it, patted me on the shoulder and smiled. That was one of the GREATEST MOMENTS of my life that I will cherish forever. Not only did Coach Bryant shake my hand, he smiled at me. I believe I was the first Elephant Mascot, even if was for only 2 games. Maybe what I did could be what started Big AL. Could be, who knows? If by chance anyone in the GREAT BAMA NATION has the newspaper picture or any pictures of me in the Red Elephant Mascot costume, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org or send them to my cell phone 205-391-7240. I only have three pictures from the Sugar Bowl, thanks to Ken Gaddy and Brad Green from Bryant Museum. Thanks and hope to hear from the GREATEST FOOTBALL FANS in the world. Roll Tide Roll !!!!!!!
submitted by Pam Bean Lee
I was born in Memphis, Tennessee (1972) and spent many fall weekends watching college football games from my grandparent's Living Room in Huntsville, Alabama. Coach Bryant is the one reason why I'm an Alabama fan today. Unless you grew up in the South it's hard to understand the importance of college football in daily life. I remember watching an Alabama game in the late 70's with my dad and grandfather. I was just learning about football at the time and then they showed Coach Bryant on the TV screen. Seeing him in the hounds-tooth hat froze me in my place. I can't explain why but it was at that moment that I started rooting for Alabama. Coach Bryant was and still is an iconic figure not only in Alabama but throughout the southeast and to an extent all college football fans. Time passes, coaches come and go but the memories last forever. The love affair between Alabama and Coach Bryant is still strong to this day. I'll never forget the day I walked home from school as a 2nd grader in 1982 and saw a red and white hounds-tooth package in our mailbox. I had written Coach Bryant a letter and received a hand written reply along with an autographed picture. That picture is framed and the centerpiece of my Alabama wall (in my "mancave") to this very day. Unfortunately the letter was lost over time. I will also never forget the exact moment I found out that Coach Bryant had died. Right after school let out we were riding home and one of my friend's dads in our carpool group told me the news. Man, did I cry like a baby and actually getting a bit teary-eyed as I type this. The closest I've seen any fan base associate with their head coach is with Penn State fans (JoePa) and Indiana University (Bobby Knight). Speaking of Coach Paterno, I remember watching him win his 324th game which moved him past Coach Bryant. I was alone at a friend's hunting cabin and I sat there with tears streaming down my face. Happy Birthday Coach. Thank you for being the best and Roll Tide!
submitted by Brent Lawson
Most fans today just don't know how important those Bear Bryant shows were on Sunday. It was the only way to see a filmed replay of the prevous day's game.
Up until the the late 70's, the NCAA had a limit on the number of games a school could be on TV during the regular season: 5 times in a 2 year period. Thus, we, the fans could only see Bama play twice one year and 3 times the next. The show and radio went hand in hand.
One of the biggest games we ever played was on a Friday in Los Angeles vs. Southern Cal. It's where Coach Bryant introdiced the wishbone and caught the pre-season #1 Southern Cal team off guard, I guess. The pevious year Southern Cal drilled Bama 42-21 at Legion Field and Bama finished 6-5-1 in 1970. Bama won a super close game, 17-10. The victory sealed by a Bama player, God Bless him, tripping up a SC player running toward the goal line in a falling reach out in what would have been the tying touchdown. I can remember the erruption in the room where at least a dozen of us students were watching the replay. It was unbelieveable. "The Bear was back" and thousands of students hit University Blvd for "the party of the century".
I believe it was Bear's 200th victory and started Bama's "golden" decade of the 70's.
I got some of what I call my "bearisms" from those Sunday shows.Everyone has to remember "bingo", when the Bear saw a great hit on the replay.
My favorite "Bearism" was Bear's comment on a great Bama goal line stand. He said something like this: "I'd like to complement the boys on the their great goalline stand, I'd just wish they'd do it up here at mid-field so I could see 'um better".
I've used that little story many times in sales meetings to emphasize the need to make objectives before the end of the month, or getting someone to procrastinate less.
Love ya , Bear
submitted by Joe Macksoud
When I was a young Cub Scout, my troop used to usher at the home games at Bryant-Denny stadium. One of the highlights of that experience was the opportunity to stand behind the north end zone as coach Bryant leaned against the goalpost facing a crescent of reporters and photographers with cameras flashing. This made a huge impression on me, and I wrote this poem about the experience:
submitted by Daniel C. Potts
My dad, an Bama Alum and former resident of Coker, AL, and my big brother, both graduates of Alabama, "talked" me into going to Alabama in 1980. Thank goodness, because "I was there, with BEAR"....I lived the legacy! I experienced 315, in Birmingham, I experienced his retirement, and I actually "attended" his funeral, which was piped into churches in downtown Tuscaloosa! I will NEVER forget it. And those who never experience a legacy like that can never relate. I used to sit on my dads' lap on Sunday afternoon, have a Coca Cola and eat Golden Flake Cheese Curls, when I was just 4, and I remember it like it was yesterday! Johnny Musso was my idol! I couldn't get enough of Bama Football, and I am very proud to say I am a dedicated alum and fan, thanks to my dad and brother! Roll Tide Everybody! You can never replace these kinds of memories!
submitted by Lynda Grimes Lepkowski
The only time I saw BOTH of my parents cry was when Coach Bryant died. He is a man remembered for football and rightly so but Coach Bryant was a man who affected so many men, women and children in a positive manner. Even if he had never coached a game Paul Bryant would still be remembered as a great, great man. Just as most people who grew up in Alabama during the 1970's I love Coach Bryant from the bottom of my heart and I ALWAYS will. You are greatly missed Coach!
submitted by Eddie Nester
I have an entire blog recounting my experience with Coach Bryant as a life long Alabama fan and up close as a walk-on football player during his last season- fall 1982. These posts were originally on my blog: Jayopsis.com, but have received so many page views, that I decided to post them on a dedicated site.
You can find them here: http://bearbryantmemories.wordpress.com/
submitted by Jay Mathews
submitted by Benton White
Paul was my grandmother, Fern Nutt's cousin and played on the Arkansas state champion Fordyce Redbugs football team with my grandfather. In the early 1970s, he was visiting family in Dallas County, Arkansas and--as was his habit on those rare visits home--stopped by my grandmother's house. I was 10 or 11 and big for my age. I don't remember what they talked about or how long he visited, but he signed a scrap of notebook paper for me, and, enthralled, I walked out with him to his car.
I'd told him I played in the offensive and defensives lines in a youth football league, and he remarked that I was big for my age. He grasped my shoulder and squeezed and said in that graveled voice, "I hope you'll come play football for me at Alabama someday"--a moment I'll never forget.
A couple of years ago, I met a man close to my age who grew up to be an LSU fan. As a boy, he'd encountered Paul at some sports event, and he told me: "I'll never forget when Bear looked at me and said, 'I hope you'll come play football for me at Alabama someday.'"
I like to think that Paul know the power of those simple words and that he shared that thought with countless young men because he knew it might inspire them to something better. All of us who got a chance to meet him, no matter how fleeting the moment was, are blessed with those memories.
submitted by Steve Taylor, Little Rock, AR