'Bama and the Bear

                                                             Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant

Last night after watching Alabama conduct a football clinic, which Notre Dame, the losing team had to endure, I thought of a story about 'Bama's legendary coach, who steely resolve built the foundation for success which I doubt will ever crumble.  "Bear," a nick name derived from having wrestled a tame circus bear as a teenager, was as colorful vocally as he was to look at ( as you can see from just a glimpse above).  I use the term legendary to describe him because he only had one losing season in 38 years of coaching.

My Rutgers, and Alabama's paths did cross during a two game series back in '80 and '81, the first game being played in the old Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ (which is now a parking lot for the new one).  I remember thinking, this has humiliation written all over it for Rutgers.  RU had decided to go "big time" with their athletics programs, and I believe in the theory "if you want to be the best, you have to play the best."  It just seemed like too much too soon.

Well, surprise, surprise, the final score of that first game was 'Bama 17, RU 13, prompting The Bear to say, to the effect, "Alabama won today, but Rutgers beat us."  I found that gracious and charitable, something an aging, mighty eagle would do to feather the nest of his legacy.

The next part of the story I heard passed along.  It sounds consistent with the character of the Bear.  I'll let you be the judge.

The next year, '81 Rutgers had to travel to Alabama to play the game.  What seemed like an army of state police were escorting the Rutgers team to the stadium, which prompted the Rutgers coach to inquire of one of them:

"Why all the security?"

The burly trooper replied, "This really isn't security.  You have nothing to be afraid of, except on the field.  The Bear ordered all the extra men to make sure you showed up."

I howled when I first heard this one.

Today, Rutgers wants to play on the level of 'Bama.  They'll get there if they continue the path of the "Bear."

Take some time to read Bear's quotes about how he approached football and life, and understand why he was so endeared by  the vast majority who ever laced up a set of cleats for him.  Go to:

Courtesy to Drew Roberts.


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