Bryant’s idea to set up a scholarship program for the children of his former players grew out of the untimely death of former Alabama All-America quarterback Pat Trammell, who died of cancer at age 28 only a few years after leading the Crimson Tide to the 1961 national championship.
Trammell was a natural leader whose only talent, according to Bryant, was winning. Perhaps Bryant’s favorite players ever because of their similar personalities, Trammell left two young children when he died on December 10, 1968, and Bryant immediately thought of the children and their future education as he devised the Bryant scholarship program
It is likely that Bryant also recalled his humble beginnings in rural , and what the opportunity of attending college eventually meant to him. He grew up near , , and was a tackle on the 1930 state champion Fordyce Redbugs football team before receiving a scholarship offer to attend the .
. Bryant scholarship recipients and their parents are honored at a banquet each spring which serves as a reunion of many of the former players and a time of bonding between the children of the players. Student attendees at the banquet, hosted by Paul W. Bryant Jr., have numbered approximately 100 each spring for many years.
Pat Trammell Jr. and Julianna Trammell were among the first children of Bryant’s former players to take advantage of the tuition assistance program and the number of overall recipients has since grown to an estimated 1,000. The names of the children of the former players ring as familiar as their fathers’ did decades ago: Namath, Musso, Davis, Versprille, Bowman, Ogilvie, Croom, Oliver, Stabler, Osteen, Sherrill, Rouzie, Sharpe, Ridgeway, Rutledge, Lee, Brooker, Scroggins, Gray, Valetto, Homan, Stephens, Harpole, Trimble, Tucker, Cavan, Pell, Samples, Ray, Casteel, Boschung, Ford, Wilson, Trimble, Duncan and hundreds of others known to Crimson Tide fans during the Bryant era.
“For someone who had already done so much for the University of Alabama and for the state to do that (set up a scholarship fund for the children of his former players) is overwhelming,” said former Bryant player Bunk Harpole, whose daughter Ann received financial aid from the Bryant scholarship. “I don’t think there is any doubt that he did it because he truly thought of his players as family.”
“It’s incredible the opportunities the scholarship gave to so many,” said former Bryant player and assistant coach Bill Oliver, whose son Bill Jr., also received assistance from the Bryant scholarship program.
“It’s the most remarkable statement a coach could make to help his players,” said Jerry Duncan, whose children Evans, Melissa and Luke Bryant Duncan each benefited from the scholarship. “I don’t think Coach Bryant realized how many kids he would eventually help. It is a great example of how he always continued to help his players after football,” added.
“Coach Bryant did a lot of things to help people that a lot of folks didn’t realize, and setting up that scholarship was just typical of him,” said Tommy White, a member of Bryant’s 1958-60 football teams. “I think Coach Bryant realized that the Good Lord had blessed him and he wanted to help others in return,” added White, whose son Rocky and daughter Amanda received financial aid from the Bryant scholarship. Rocky White also served as a football manager during Bryant’s last two seasons as head coach and the first two seasons of Ray Perkins’ term as Bryant’s successor.
“It has been a tremendous help,” Kelvin Croom said of the Bryant scholarship. Three of Croom’s children (Tamara, Kevin and Teresa) have graduated from the University using aid from the scholarship and a fourth (Kennis) is attending the University with the financial assistance.
“The scholarship just shows his long-term commitment to his players,” Croom said. “He supported education and encouraged us to leave the University with all it could offer us. He wanted us to be successful in life,” he added.
“Coach Bryant contributed to the education of so many through the Bryant scholarship program,” said former Tide All-America end Tommy Brooker, a member of the 1961 national championship team. “In my case, it even applied to my stepson, Brantley Newton, and we were very grateful for that,” Brooker added.
Under current NCAA rules, a player or recruit may not be promised a scholarship for a child or other family member, therefore it would violate NCAA rules to establish a scholarship similar to the Bryant scholarship today.
Any recruited athlete who receives the Bryant scholarship must count as though he is receiving an athletic scholarship when calculating NCAA scholarship limits. Consequently, a walk-on player must give up his Bryant scholarship before appearing in a game if the team is already at the scholarship limit.