In his footsteps

The best measure of a leader is his followers, and Bryant had plenty of those. In addition to the 54 former pupils who went on to become head coaches in the college or professional ranks, several others have made their marks as prominent assistant coaches and/or athletic directors. For decades, having played or coached for Bryant was the nation’s best resume for landing a head coaching position, as the figures show.

Former Bryant pupils from each of his coaching stops became head coaches, starting with player Bill Elias and assistant coach Frank Moseley of the 1945 team. Elias later became head coach at and Moseley was head coach at Virginia Tech.  

            Ten former players and one assistant from Bryant’s 1946-53 teams became head coaches. They included assistant Paul Dietzel (LSU) and players Ray Callahan (Cincinnati); Jerry Claiborne (Kentucky, Maryland and Virginia Tech); Phil Cutchin (Oklahoma State); Tom Harper (Wake Forest); Wilbur Jamerson (Morehead State); Charles McClendon (LSU); Jim McKenzie (Oklahoma); Vito “Babe” Parilli (Chicago Wind); Charlie Bradshaw (Kentucky and Troy State), and Howard Schnellenberger (Oklahoma, Louisville, Miami, Baltimore Colts and Florida Atlantic).

            Eight former players and two former assistants from Bryant’s Texas A&M teams moved on to head coaching positions. They were players Loyd  Taylor (Tarleton State); Jim Wright (Wichita State); John David Crow (Northeast Louisiana); Jim Stanley (Oklahoma State and Michigan Panthers); Gene Stallings (Texas A&M, Phoenix Cardinals and Alabama); Don Robbins (Idaho); J. T. King (Texas Tech); Jack Pardee (Houston Oilers, Chicago Bears, Washington Redskins and University of Houston) and assistants Jim Owens (Washington) and A. O. “Bum” Phillips (New Orleans Saints and Houston Oilers).

            Twenty four former players and seven former assistants from the Bryant era at have gone on to head coaching positions. The players who followed in Bryant’s footsteps include Mickey Andrews (North Alabama and Livingston State); Bill Battle (Tennessee); Jim Blevins (Jacksonville State); Clark Boler (Bloomsburg State); Neil Callaway (UAB); Sylvester Croom (Mississippi State); Mike DuBose (Alabama and Millsaps College); Danny Ford (Clemson and Arkansas); Jim Fuller (Jacksonville State); Leon Fuller (Colorado State); Bill Hannah (Fullerton, CA, Junior College); Bobby Johns (Livingston State); Joey Jones (South Alabama); E. J. Junior (Central State, OH); Bud Moore (Kansas); Bill Oliver (UT-Chattanooga); Charley Pell (Jacksonville State, Clemson and Florida); Ray Perkins (New York Giants, Alabama, Tampa Bay Bucs, Arkansas State); George Pugh (Alabama A&M); Mike Riley (Winnipeg, San Antonio, San Diego Chargers and Oregon State); Jimmy Sharpe (Virginia Tech); Jackie Sherrill (Pittsburgh, Washington State, Texas A&M, Mississippi State); Steve Sloan (Vanderbilt, Texas Tech, Duke and Ole Miss), and Richard Williamson (Memphis State and Tampa Bay Bucs).

Bryant’s Alabama assistants who went on to head coaching positions include Pat Dye (East Carolina, Wyoming and Auburn); Bob Tyler (Mississippi State and North Texas State); Ken Meyer (San Francisco 49ers); Al Kincaid (Wyoming and Arkansas State); Larry Lacewell (Arkansas State); Curley Hallman (Southern Mississippi and LSU), and Bruce Arians (Temple and Phoenix Cardinals).      

One of Bryant’s pupils who did not become a head coach was the late Mal Moore, who spent 24 years as a player and assistant coach under Bryant and later served as an assistant coach under Gene Stallings with the Phoenix Cardinals and at before becoming an associate athletic director at in 1994. Moore, one of Bryant’s most loyal and attentive lieutenants, served as director of athletics at the University 1999-2013 and earned ten football national championship rings as player, assistant coach and administrator.

, a player on ’s 1961 national championship team like Moore and a former head coach at the of , is now the director of Athletics. Sloan, a quarterback on ’s 1964 and 1965 national championship teams, is a former director of athletics at and served in the same role at the and the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga in addition to serving as head football coach at Texas Tech, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Duke.

Crow, Bryant’s only Heisman Trophy winner as a player at Texas A&M, also served as athletic director at his alma mater.

Ozzie Newsome, an All-America tight end at Alabama 1974-77 who went on to a Professional Football Hall of Fame career with the Cleveland Browns, is now the general manager of the NFL Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. Newsome was the first African-American to hold the position of general manager of an NFL team. Several other former Alabama players, including Croom, who became the first African-American head coach in the Southeastern Conference at Mississippi State; John Mitchell and Tony Nathan, are assistant coaches in the NFL.

Bryant spent extra time mentoring his quarterbacks through the years, often taking walks with them on Saturday mornings before afternoon games as they discussed game situations. In addition to game preparation, those private sessions also served as confidence builders and gave the players greater stature in the eyes of their teammates.

The results of such tutoring showed up not only in the win column, but in the All-America honors earned by Bryant-coached quarterbacks and the number of them who made their marks in professional football. That list includes Babe Parilli and George Blanda from and Joe Namath, Ken Stabler, Steve Sloan, Richard Todd, Scott Hunter and Jeff Rutledge from .

Everyone had a lot of respect for Coach Bryant, but most people were fearful of him, too. Most folks will bark at you now and then but they won’t eat you. With Coach Bryant, you weren’t sure he wasn’t going to eat you.
----- Sang Lyda, former UA assistant trainer