Bear Bryant

100th anniversary of Bear Bryant’s birth looms over Alabama-Texas A&M showdown


When No. 1 Alabama and No. 6 Texas A&M face off on Saturday in College Station, it will be just the sixth time these two schools have met.

Despite this historical unfamiliarity, both teams are bound together by a common thread that goes beyond their mere status as Southeastern Conference brethren.

It stands to reason that both programs would not be in the position they are now if not for the work of one man — Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant, who was born 100 years ago this week.

His first team at A&M, the 1954 squad, went 1-9 after surviving a grueling training camp at Junction, Texas. Two years later, the legendary “Junction Boys” would go undefeated and capture their first Southwest Conference championship in 15 seasons. When John David Crow won the Aggies’ first Heisman Trophy in 1957, it was in large part because Bryant vouched on his behalf.

“If he doesn’t win it, then they ought to quit giving it,” Bryant told the press.

In 1958, Bryant was tabbed by his alma mater to be its head coach and athletic director: “Momma called. And when Momma calls, you just have to come runnin’,” he said of his return to Alabama.

His tenure at Alabama was remarkable.  He coached the Tide for 25 years, winning six national titles (1961, 1964, 1965, 1973, 1978, and 1979) and thirteen SEC championships. He was the three-time national Coach of the Year.  When he finished, he had won more games than any other Division I coach, compiling a lifetime record of 323-85-17.

The Bear passed away in January of 1983, just a few weeks after retiring from football.

What would he think of these two teams getting ready to play on Saturday? He’d probably get a kick out of Johnny Manziel’s free-wheeling style — after all, he coached one Joe Namath — though it’s doubtful he’d tolerate any of his off-the-field antics. The power-running and physical approach of the Crimson Tide on both sides of the ball would be right up his alley.

Most of all, he’d be proud of what his two teams had become — national powers playing the sport at the highest of levels.

If there’s anyone left who represents the spirit of Bryant and his connection to these two schools, it’s Crow, who coached under Bryant at Alabama after starring for the Aggies on Bryant’s last team there. When Alabama and A&M storm onto Kyle Field on Saturday, he’ll be there to watch his Heisman heir try to pull off another upset. But he won’t be devastated if the Tide wins.

“I tell everybody that A&M is my true love and that I want us to win everything that we do, but Alabama is a close second because of the ties I had with Coach Bryant, and with my son playing over there,” Crow told the College Station Eagle.

If this year’s game is as exciting as last year’s 29-24 upset by A&M in Tuscaloosa, it may signal the beginning of a rather interesting and unique rivalry.

The Bear would no doubt approve.

Former Texas A&M WR Thomas Johnson arrested on murder charge

Thomas Johnson
Associated Press

A very disturbing story has emerged out of Dallas, where former Texas A&M wide receiver Thomas Johnson sits in a Dallas County jail cell after allegedly admitting to hacking an unsuspecting jogger to death with a machete.

Just before 8 a.m. Monday, authorities say Johnson went to White Rock Creek Trail, a popular jogging trail in northeast Dallas, and randomly slashed a jogger to death. “It appears Mr. Johnson picked this victim at random. Absolutely random,” Deputy Chief Rob Sherwin told the Dallas Morning News. “He just attacked him. … It’s just very unusual. It’s quite shocking.”

Johnson then walked away from the scene in search of a cell phone. An onlooker had already dialed 911, and when police arrived Johnson allegedly told them there was a man “laying down with a sword in his head and not moving.”

“I just committed capital murder,” Johnson said and then repeated, according to his arrest affidavit. The only motive police reported was that Johnson was angry at his situation in life at the time of the slaying.

The victim, an unidentified male between the age of 25 and 35, passed away at a nearby hospital.

Johnson, meanwhile, remains in a Dallas County jail in lieu of $500,000 bail.

Johnson was a highly-regarded member of Kevin Sumlin‘s first recruiting class at Texas A&M. As a true freshman in 2012, the Dallas native caught 30 passes for 339 yards and one touchdown through the Aggies’ upset of then-No. 1 Alabama and then simply… disappeared. He went missing for three days in November 2012 before turning up back home in Dallas. His mother told the San Antonio Express-News last April Johnson would like to return to college football, but a return to the game never materialized.

No punishment from SEC for Bielema’s sideline interaction with Alabama player

Bret Bielema

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema will not be disciplined by the SEC office for his brief interaction with Alabama offensive lineman Cam Robinson last weekend. A video showing Bielema exaggerating his interaction with Robinson at the end of a play was reviewed by SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, and the commissioner has discussed the situation with the Razorbacks coach.

“I visited with Bret over the phone on Monday and we discussed the play that has now become widely reviewed through a brief video clip,” Sankey said in a released statement. “Football is played in an intense competitive environment and I reminded him of the need for head coaches to resolve with their own players issues that may arise, which was his intent. The unsportsmanlike penalty assessed on the play was not directly associated with Bret’s efforts to intervene at the end of the play and we are moving forward in a positive manner.”

That appears to be the end of the discussion regarding Bielema’s act. I personally think there should have been some more done here by the league’s commissioner, but we will see if Bielema avoids putting himself in a similar position moving forward.