Legend Of “The Bear” And Growing Up On An Old Porch In Alabama
When I was a kid, growing up and being raised here in the Heart of Dixie, a name was taught at a very young age. The name and nickname were of a college football coach, but not just any coach, he’s a legend. In the south his status was legendary, in Alabama, it was almost at Godly levels. I’m talking about the one and only Paul “Bear” Bryant.
For twenty-five years he leaned up against the goal post in Tuscaloosa and “The Bear” cemented his legacy in Alabama. Before his time with the Crimson Tide, he was known for his time in College Station with Texas A&M and the “Junction Boys.” Prior to that, Paul Bryant turned around the Kentucky football program in Lexington. The Legend of “The Bear” is passed down from decade to decade and from old porch to old porch in the south. Especially old porches in Alabama where Paul “Bear” Bryant’s legacy still gets passed on today.
1950 Kentucky New Heights
This wasn’t the first year for Bryant coaching in Lexington and it wasn’t the last, but this was the most successful for the Wildcats. Kentucky won its first Southeastern Conference title and finished the season 11-1. A school-best record and concluded the season with a victory over Bud Wilkinson’s top-ranked Oklahoma Sooners in the Sugar Bowl. Paul “Bear” Bryant and the Kentucky Wildcats ended the season ranked #7 in the nation. Although Paul “Bear” Bryant led Kentucky’s football program to new heights, he resigned after the 1953 season because he felt that basketball would always be the school’s primary sport. Without Bryant and his legacy, the school would remain a basketball school from that time till the present day.
1954 Texas A&M “The Junction Boys”
The 1954 season for Texas A&M and Paul “Bear” Bryant began with the infamous training camp in Junction, Texas. The survivors of the camp and players who stuck with it were given the name “Junction Boys”. Not many players earned the title and made it through that camp, but the ones that did had to endure losses on the field as well. The Texas A&M Aggies would suffer through a 1-9 record that season after that training camp. The camp did, however, build a bond of brothers and was a testament to how tough Paul “Bear” Bryant was. The time in College Station added a different element to the Bear’s legacy and to the legend of Paul Bryant.
Alabama “Momma Called”
When your outside playing in the yard and your momma calls you from the porch to come home, you come running. In 1958 “Momma Called” and Paul “Bear” Bryant came home to Tuscaloosa. Over the years at Alabama, in twenty-five years, Bryant won six national titles and thirteen SEC championships. Growing up though I remember one thing the most, a newspaper from 1982 sitting around my grandparent’s house. On it was Paul “Bear” Bryant from a side view and it was a preview of the new football season. It mentions in the newspaper about getting to 315 wins as a head coach the year before and his legacy he has cemented. It talked about how the 1982 season may go and that Alabama was looking forward to the start of it in a few weeks.
The paper had a date of August 26th, 1982 and this would be one of the last to preview a football season with Paul “Bear” Bryant. As we all know “The Bear” would retire after the 1982 football season. Alabama finished 8-4 and with a 21-15 win in the Liberty Bowl versus Illinois. The time came for “The Bear” to step away from the goal post he leaned on in Tuscaloosa and not long after, he passed away.
The Legend of Paul “Bear” Bryant was more than his successes on the football field, it was also an old newspaper lying around a pair of grandparents house. The Legend of “The Bear” is listening and growing up on an old porch in Alabama. When momma called to come home though, you came running.
What memories do you have of Paul “Bear” Bryant? Leave a comment below.
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