Bear Bryant

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

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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.

Michigan’s Jake Butt named Mackey Award TE of the Year

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 26:   Jake Butt #88 of the Michigan Wolverines is tackled by Marshon Lattimore #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes after catching a pass during the first half of their game at Ohio Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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For the second time today, a Michigan Wolverine has taken home a major college football award.

This morning, the Paul Hornung Award announced Jabrill Peppers as its 2016 winner.  Not long after, the John Mackey Award named Peppers’ teammate Jake Butt as the 2016 recipient of its award, handed out annually to the nation’s top tight end.

Butt was a semifinalist for the 2015 award won by Arkansas’ Hunter Henry.  He’s the first Michigan player to win the Mackey.

“It’s a great honor first and foremost, especially for this team,” a statement from Butt began. “One thing Coach [Jim] Harbaugh says, ‘A rising tide raises all ships.’ So it’s great to win this award. I want to thank the guys in this group; this is our award, really it’s not a one-man award. I really thank everyone on this team, this coaching staff, my position coach Jay Harbaugh, my family and everyone that’s helped me achieve this great award. I’m really appreciative of that.”

Butt’s 3.6 receptions per game tied for 10th amongst tight ends.  he was one of three finalists for the award, and was joined by Alabama’s O.J. Howard and Clemson’s Jordan Leggett.

Christian McCaffrey confirms decision to move on to NFL

PALO ALTO, CA - NOVEMBER 26:  Christian McCaffrey #5 of the Stanford Cardinal leaps over the line for a three yard gain and a first down against the Rice Owls in the first quarter of their NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Less than a day later, the reports have been confirmed.

In a move that was expected even before the start of the 2016 season, Christian McCaffrey announced Wednesday that, yes, he will be foregoing his remaining eligibility and making himself available for the 2017 NFL draft. In a lengthy statement, McCaffrey, whose father Ed played for the Denver Broncos, said that “[s]ince I was 6 years old, I’ve wanted to play in the NFL.”

“Now, it’s time to take that step,” the all-purpose Stanford running back said, adding, “There’s nothing more I can put on film.”

Below is McCaffrey’s statement, in its entirety:

After three incredible years at Stanford, I’ve decided the time is right to enter the NFL Draft.

Since I was 6 years old, I’ve wanted to play in the NFL. It’s been on every list of goals that I’ve ever written. Now, it’s time to take that step. There’s nothing more I can put on film.

I love Stanford more than anything. It will be extremely hard to leave. I feel humbled and inspired every day by the peers who surround me. I came to Stanford because I wanted to be challenged more than I ever have in my life. And that desire is shared by everyone who walks on this campus, by people who literally will change the world.

I plan on getting my communication degree in the future. I don’t know when, but I will finish. As soon as my career takes shape, I’ll figure out a plan. Stanford does a great job of encouraging former players to return and graduate. Many come back and walk the same halls after their football careers are over to earn their degrees. I want to be that example for the next generation.

I’ve talked to many in and out of the game and received advice from people whose opinions I greatly respect, including Toby Gerhart, who was here for a game this season. I took their feedback and came to a conclusion: I’m ready.

I talked to Coach Shaw about everything. He completely agreed. Really, it just made sense. The opportunity is right in front of me.

Simply put, this is the best time to live out my dream.

McCaffrey was runner-up in the 2015 Heisman Trophy voting.  While he didn’t have the all-around season he did a year ago — he set the FBS single-season all-purpose yardage record — he averaged more yards rushing per game and more yards per game in 2016.

A triple-threat, McCaffrey is expected to go in the first couple of rounds of the draft.

Matt Rhule takes out full-page newspaper ad thanking Temple fans, city of Philly

ANNAPOLIS, MD - DECEMBER 03: Head coach Matt Rhule of the Temple Owls reacts to a play in the second quarter against the Navy Midshipmen during the AAC Championship game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on December 3, 2016 in Annapolis, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Thanks to the off-field events of the last few months, the Baylor football program specifically and the university in general could use some class these days.  Fortunately for all involved, it looks as if they’re new head coach is bringing some along with him.

Tuesday, Baylor announced that it had hired Matt Rhule away from Temple to become the permanent replacement to Art Briles.  The move, obviously, didn’t sit well with a sizable portion of the Temple fan base and left some emotions in the area exposed and raw.

In an attempt to assuage the anguish, Rhule went classy and took out a full-page ad in the Philadelphia Inquirer expressing gratitude for the time spent in the football program as well as the city of Philadelphia.

On behalf of Julie and our children, I want to express our sincere gratitude to Temple University, the City of Philadelphia and Owls fans throughout the world,” Rhule wrote. “The passion and pursuit of excellence at Temple allowed for our student-athletes to achieve success on the football field and to develop as young men off of the field. Temple and Philly will always be a part of us and we will be cheering on the Owls from afar.

At the lowest period for the Bears football program, they can certainly use a coach like Rhule. Especially if he can win with the same kind of class he did in Philly.

WMU’s Zach Terrell claims prestigious ‘Academic Heisman’ honor

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 02:  Zach Terrell #11 of the Western Michigan Broncos throws a first half pass while playing the Ohio Bobcats  during the MAC Championship on December 2, 2016 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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It’s been one helluva year for the football program in Kalamazoo.

Not only is Western Michigan undefeated at 13-0, the Broncos are on their way to a New Year’s Six bowl as the Group of Six’s representative. Now Tuesday, one of the biggest factors behind that success has been honored for his individual academic accomplishments.

At the 59th annual National Football Foundation Awards Dinner in New York City Tuesday night, the William V. Campbell Trophy was presented to WMU quarterback Zach Terrell. The Campbell Trophy, often referred to as the “Academic Heisman,” recognizes “an individual [who is] the absolute best in the country for his combined academic success, football performance and exemplary community leadership. ”

Terrell is the first-ever Campbell Trophy winner from WMU.

“Zach and his fellow members of the 2016 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class represent more than just the standout athletic ability seen on the field,” said NFF chairman Archie Manning. “Their academic achievements and their contributions as leaders in the community send a powerful message about the young men who play our sport. They have taken full advantage of the educational opportunities created by college football, and they have created a compelling legacy for others to follow.”

Oklahoma’s Ty Darlington was the 2015 winner of the Campbell Trophy.

Terrell was one of 12 finalists for this year’s award. Below are those dozen players, with their GPAs and majors for good measure:

Chris Beaschler, LB, Dayton, 3.72, Mechanical Engineering
Tim Crawley, WR, San Jose State, 3.78, Business Management
DeVon Edwards, S, Duke, 3.35, Psychology
Brooks Ellis, LB, Arkansas, 3.82, Exercise Science
Carter Hanson, LB, St. John’s (Minn.), 4.00, Business Leadership
Taysom Hill, QB, BYU, 3.45, Finance
Ryan Janvion, S, Wake Forest, 3.53, Business Management
Zay Jones, WR, East Carolina, 3.56, Communications
Cooper Rush, QB, Central Michigan, 3.86, Actuarial Science
Karter Schult, DL, Northern Iowa, 3.87, Exercise Science
Tyler Sullivan, QB, Delta State (Miss.), 3.68, Biology
Zach Terrell, QB, Western Michigan, 3.66, Finance