Remembering 100 years of "Bear Bryant"

Sep 7, 2013

This Wednesday will be the 100th birthday of legendary Alabama football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. The Center for Public Television and Radio at the University of Alabama will premiere a new documentary titled "Mama Called," on the life and times of "The Bear," Wednesday on WVUA-TV. Here are some memories of Coach Bryant...

“One morning, my father was gone to coffee. So, in walks this great big guy, with a gravel voice…asks for my father Frank. And, I said ‘he’s out, but I’m his son, I’m Butch. What can I do for you?” And he said ‘well, I’d like to get two suits.’ So, I took his measurements. He had wide shoulders, small waist….his waist was about thirty seven. I measured him for the suits, took his phone number, and said I’d call in four or five weeks. So, my daddy comes back from coffee about an hour later, and I started telling him about the man who came in. And, he noticed the name and he said “do you know who this is?’ I said ‘yeah, it’s Paul W. Bryant. I even got his phone number, he lives in Tuscaloosa.’ And he said, ‘boy, that’s that new coach at Alabama. They call him ‘Bear.’ -- Coach Bryant's Birmingham tailor Butch Baldone

“Coach Clayburn called a squad meeting, and he said Coach Bryant would come in, and he wanted to speak to the squad. And, Coach Bryant came in, and I was stupid enough…and I guess a lot of us were too…to think he’d come and tell us a light joke and break the ice. But, he came in and wound his watch and looked as his clock, and at 1 o’clock, he closed that door. ‘I advise you, and you can take my at my word on this…to be in shape when Spring practice starts. You’ve never been through something you’re gonna go through if you stay here. And, if you stay here, you’re gonna play. If you don’t, I don’t want you. I’m gonna build a football team. I don’t know how long it’s gonna take me, but I’m gonna build one. So, you can be with me, or you can leave.’ When he left, we were stunned. Nobody knew what really to expect. So, after everybody left, some of us were left in there talking. And, I said ‘you know, I wonder…if anybody…any of these trustees or the president, knows that they’ve hired a madman.”--- Former Alabama football player "Scooter" Dyess.

“Well, there are stories, and you know…one of the ones that somebody sent to me actually, was he was recruiting a guy in south Alabama somewhere in some little town, and he went into a little dive and was gonna have lunch. And the old guy who ran the little restaurant said ‘all we have is chitlins, you probably wouldn’t want to eat those here.’ And he said, ‘no, I’m from Arkansas, I’ll eat chitlins.’ But, anyway, the guy asked him to send him a picture. So, he went on down the road to recruit the guy he come to see, and he wasn’t worth a hoot, so he didn’t recruit him. But, years later, the best player in Alabama committed to Auburn, and all of a sudden the player came back a few days later and said he wanted to come to Alabama. And he (Bryant) asked him why would that be? And he said, ‘my grandfather was the guy who served you chitlins in the bar.’ So, the fact that he sent him a picture, signed a picture, and developed a relationship with that guy, that guy wanted his grandson to play for Coach Bryant. Because of the relationship that he developed in that short amount of time. And, it just goes to show one thing people always remember is how you treated them. And, that speaks volumes to me on how Coach Bryant treated people all the time.” -- Alabama Coach Nick Saban

“I remember a class assignment was given by my fifth grade English teacher at the time. And, were able to choose the topic of our choice. And, of course, being a fifth grade boy in Alabama, in the shadow of the University…we had heard that Coach Bryant was getting ready to retire. So, I chose that as my topic. Well, unbeknownst to me, after I submitted the poem, my English teacher decided to submit the poem to the University. On that day particular morning, the Principal typically comes on and makes morning announcements. ‘We have a special recognition for one of our students, Jason Dunn. And we had received a letter.’ And, she didn’t specify where the letter had come from. ‘January 22, 1983…Dear Jason, Thank you very much for sharing the poem you’d written. You’re a smart young man for a fifth grader, and I hope you’ll continue to work hard and come to Bama someday. Best wishes to you and your family and all your classmates at Barry Elementary. Sincerely, Paul Bryant.’ Friends wanted to touch the letter, everyone wanted to see, to see if it was real, wanted to see if it was his handwriting. There were people, I’m sure, who just wanted to touch a piece of paper that maybe Coach Bryant had touched. And, I knew my mother was coming to pick me up later that afternoon…couldn’t wait to show her. I remember getting to the car, opening up the door, and sitting inside, and seeing tears down my mother’s face. And at that moment, she just looked at me. And, I told her ‘mom, look, I have a letter from the Bear.’ And she said to me, ‘son, the Bear died today.'--- Jason Dunn, Tuscaloosa.

Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when Coach Bryant passed on?

What's your best memory of Coach Bear Bryant?

Compare Coach Bryant's accomplishments to those of Coach Nick Saban?