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

Bear Bryant AP

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.

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10 Responses to “100th anniversary of Bear Bryant’s birth looms over Alabama-Texas A&M showdown”
  1. YouMadCauseImStylingOnYou says: Sep 12, 2013 6:07 PM

    I’d say Johnny Autographs vs. the Alabama Bagmen is a lot more important than the birthday of a guy who has been dead 30 years.

    Plus the prospect of a possible second Nick Saban meltdown presser if the Aggies pull the upset.

  2. Deb says: Sep 12, 2013 6:26 PM

    Great story, Chris, thank you. I doubt the Bear would put up with Manziel. He didn’t put up with any nonsense from Namath. When he threatened to bench another free-wheeler, Kenny Stabler, Namath–then with the Jets–sent Stabler a telegram saying, “He means it.”

    The Junction Boys remember him with love and respect, but no coach today could put any players through that kind of grueling practice. Mike Leach can attest to what happens if you just send one off to sit in a room by himself. If it were possible, though, Saban probably would be doing it :)

    Manziel aside, because of the Bear and Coach Stallings, I’m sure a lot of Bama fans, like myself, have a soft spot for A&M. Looking forward to a great game and just hoping for a positive outcome for the Tide.

    RIP, Coach Bryant. We miss you.

  3. amosalanzostagg says: Sep 12, 2013 7:22 PM

    There will be another informal reunion of the “Junction Boys” this weekend in College Station starting this evening with Alabama and A&M counterparts sharing Bear stories. It is somewhat bittersweet because Jack Pardee passed and we hadn’t heard from his family if they would be attending.

    The SEC did very well in selecting A&M as a member. That being said, Bama wins.


  4. bamafan36 says: Sep 13, 2013 12:36 AM

    Coach Bryant would be proud to see his Alma Mater win 45-13, especially sine the current aTm coach has allowed one player to transcend the team and the University…..something he NEVER would have allowed. Hopefully, that message reaches Coach Sumlin. Who, by all accounts, is an amazing man and a real stand up guy.

  5. noring4youstill says: Sep 13, 2013 8:07 AM

    The trash will be out in full effect for this day. Reminds me, how many Alabama fans does it take to change a lightbulb? 1. But it takes a room full to talk about how the Beat would have done it.

  6. 1historian says: Sep 13, 2013 12:43 PM

    Joe Namath was his free-wheeling self at Alabama but when the Bear said “S..T!” Joe would respectfully reply “where when and what color?”

    To imply that Manziel would have gotten away with his antics with the Bear as his coach is silly.

    p.s. – youmadcauseImstylingonyou – to you falls the dubious honor of standing in the public square with a big sign hanging around your neck with the announcement “I don’t Get it”

    Alabama 31-10.

    I hate Alabama

  7. onlyoneleft says: Sep 13, 2013 12:46 PM

    The Bear would ask “can’t you boys cheat without getting caught?”

  8. massivedick says: Sep 13, 2013 2:56 PM

    he would think johnny is a punk ass

  9. tony34343434 says: Sep 13, 2013 8:38 PM

    what bear would say

    why didnt i pay players great idea.
    why didnt i give them PED’s
    where is my white hood and sheet.

  10. Deb says: Sep 13, 2013 9:10 PM

    Really, tony34343434? That’s what Bear would say? Clearly you know as much about Bear’s history with African-American players as you do about grammar and punctuation.

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