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Paul "Bear" Bryant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 11, 1913 - January 26, 1983

Inducted into National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame in 1986

Six National Championships: 1961, 1964, 1965, 1973, 1978, 1979

Thirteen SEC Championships: 1961, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1981

National Coach of the Year: 1961, 1971, 1973

SEC Coach of the Year: 1950, 1961, 1964, 1965, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1977, 1979, 1981

Coach Bryant's Head Coaching record: Won 323, Lost 85, Tied 17

Year
School
Won
Lost
Tied
1945
Maryland
6
2
1
1946
Kentucky
7
3
0
1947
Kentucky
8
3
0
1948
Kentucky
5
3
2
1949
Kentucky
9
3
0
1950
Kentucky
11
1
0
1951
Kentucky
8
4
0
1952
Kentucky
5
4
2
1953
Kentucky
7
2
1
1954
Texas A&M
1
9
0
1955
Texas A&M
7
2
1
1956
Texas A&M
9
0
1
1957
Texas A&M
8
3
0
1958
Alabama
5
4
1
1959
Alabama
7
2
2
1960
Alabama
8
1
2
1961
Alabama
11
0
0
1962
Alabama
10
1
0
1963
Alabama
9
2
0
1964
Alabama
10
1
0
1965
Alabama
9
1
1
1966
Alabama
11
0
0
1967
Alabama
8
2
1
1968
Alabama
8
3
0
1969
Alabama
6
5
0
1970
Alabama
6
5
1
1971
Alabama
11
1
0
1972
Alabama
10
2
0
1973
Alabama
11
1
0
1974
Alabama
11
1
0
1975
Alabama
11
1
0
1976
Alabama
9
3
0
1977
Alabama
11
1
0
1978
Alabama
11
1
0
1979
Alabama
12
0
0
1980
Alabama
10
2
0
1981
Alabama
9
2
1
1982
Alabama
8
4
0


The Bear Bryant Story
By MIKE EMMETT
June 20, 1997

He got that nickname for wrestling a bear on stage at a theater in Fordyce, Ark., for a lousy five bucks. But that was far better than the 50 cents he would have made picking cotton that day.
Young Paul Bryant was poor, you see, dirt poor, as were most of the good people in southern Arkansas at the time.

This man we would someday call "Bear" with only the highest of reverence was born in the boonies in a place around Kingsland called Morro Bottoms on Sept. 11, 1913.

GROWING UP DURING these times was hard -- boys became men when they still should have been playing like boys. And lads like Bear Bryant quickly found themselves behind a plow every morning before school and then back behind it again as the sun passed well off into the Texas horizon.

But there was a way out of this world for him and no, it was not wrestling animals. It was football. He loved the game and the challenges it presented.

"My attitude has always been if it's worth playing, it's worth paying the price to win," Bryant would say years later in life.

That philosophy steered his teenage years when played on the Morro High School team. He was big and strong, but more importantly he had that spirit, the kind of drive that picks you up off the field and puts you back on the line when you're too tired to walk. He played with the same intensity throughout the game, even when he was hurt. Third quarter, fourth quarter. Didn't matter. He played full-speed every second he was on the field.

HE BECAME AN ALL-STATER and graduated from high school as the Depression was raging on.

Bryant's football skills led the University of Alabama to latch onto this big, strong plowboy from Arkansas. The school was looking to sustain the glory of the mid-1920s when it had won the national championship in back-to-back seasons under the legendary Wallace Wade. And the coaches there thought this kid could help them do just that, so they handed him a scholarship and off he went to Tuscaloosa.

Yes, he was good, but his years at Bama were also the years of the Notre Dame, Michigan and USC football machines. So there were no national titles. But the Tide was still one tough team to beat and good enough to capture the first two SEC crowns in 1933-34.

His playing days ceased when they took away the pigskin and handed him a sheepskin. He was just 23 but the Alabama coaching staff knew this kid was something special. There was only one thing to do -- they hired him as an assistant.

"IF YOU BELIEVE IN YOURSELF and have pride and never quit, you'll be a winner," he said. "The price of victory is high but so are the rewards."

The years passed, World War II came and when the shooting had stopped, Alabama was back on top of the SEC.

After serving four years in the Navy, it was also time for Bear to get back to work and to forge a career in the sport he so dearly loved. Maryland offered him the Terps head coaching job in 1945, and he gladly took it. It was a short-lived stop, however, because the following year, Kentucky knocked on his door and he jumped at the chance to move back to the South. The Wildcats had heard about this tough, young coach who took his football as serious as most people take religion. It was war, you see. And wars were meant to be won. His stay in Lexington, Ky., lasted seven years, and his reputation for being brilliant at refining offenses and defenses was starting to form.

He took the Wildcats to the top of the SEC in 1951 with a 5-1 conference record and capped it with a 13-7 victory over Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. The following year, he added a Cotton Bowl win, 20-17, over TCU. Seven years, four bowls. A darn good record for a young and learning coach.

THE YEAR 1954 was a moving time once again, however, and so he packed up and headed off to Texas when the Aggies offered him a job. He had the master formula for success, and now he wanted to test it out at another school.

"Our game plan is first year, a .500 season. Second year, a conference championship. Third year, undefeated. Fourth, a national championship. And by the fifth year, we'll be on probation, of course," he once joked.

But he wasn't totally kidding. Two years after he started at Texas A&M, his team won the Southwest Conference.

Yes, he saddled his players with some of the toughest practices and yes, many good players didn't make it far with this man -- heck, even the great Joe Namath got on his bad side every once in a while. But he knew how to win at this game and when the next school came calling in 1958, history was made.

That school was Alabama, his alma matter. He told the good folks of Texas that he would like to stay around with them but "mama's calling" and he had to go. He was just 44 years old and that very year, he performed what is known in Dixie as the "Turnaround."

Alabama wasn't just on the road back to the glory of the 1920s, it was on a road that would lead to college football history.

The Bear's temper had become just as legendary as his coaching abilities. He would tell you like it is, whether you liked it or not. He was a devout man. Church and God were right up there with country and football. But he didn't think God would do a whit to help anyone who refused to help themselves.

WHEN IT CAME TO COACHING he wasn't a great innovator. He never really had the desires to copy Knute Rockne's style. But he was a great tinkerer. He knew how to use the single-wing, the pro-set, and the Notre Dame box. And he refined them, as well as the Wishbone, to perfection.

And by doing so, he led the Tide to six national titles and more wins than any other Division I coach in history.

When he retired in 1982, he said the decision had come because he wasn't pleased with himself any more.

"This is my school, my alma mater. I love it and I love my players. But in my opinion they deserved better coaching than they have been getting from me this year," he said.

And with that, the man under that houndstooth hat retired. He died less than a year later, on Jan. 26, 1983, and a state -- along with a nation, for that matter -- mourned.

Still do to this day. He was a Bear of a man to forget.

"If you believe in yourself and have dedication and pride - and never quit - you'll be a winner. The price of victory is high but so are the rewards." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"Mama wanted me to be a preacher. I told her coachin' and preachin' were a lot alike." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"But it's still a coach's game. Make no mistake. You start at the top. If you don't have a good one at the top, you don't have a cut dog's chance. If you do, the rest falls into place. You have to have good assistants, and a lot of things, but first you have to have the chairman of the board." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, we did it. If anything goes really good, then you did it. That's all it takes to get people to win football games for you." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"I think the most important thing of all for any team is a winning attitude. The coaches must have it. The players must have it. The student body must have it. If you have dedicated players who believe in themselves, you don't need a lot of talent." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"The idea of molding men means a lot to me." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"If wanting to win is a fault, as some of my critics seem to insist, then I plead guilty. I like to win. I know no other way. It's in my blood." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"The old lessons (work, self-discipline, sacrifice, teamwork, fighting to achieve) aren't being taught by many people other than football coaches these days. The football coach has a captive audience and can teach these lessons because the communication lines between himself and his players are more wide open than between kids and parents. We better teach these lessons or else the country's future population will be made up of a majority of crooks, drug addicts, or people on relief." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"Sacrifice. Work. Self-discipline. I teach these things, and my boys don't forget them when they leave." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"I don't care how much talent a team has - if the boys don't think tough, practice tough, and live tough, how can they play tough on Saturday?" -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"If you don't have discipline, you can't have a successful program." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"It's not the will to win that matters - everyone has that. It's the will to prepare to win that matters." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"I'll never give up on a player regardless of his ability as long as he never gives up on himself. In time he will develop." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"Set goals - high goals for you and your organization. When your organization has a goal to shoot for, you create teamwork, people working for a common good." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"Don't talk too much. Don't pop off. Don't talk after the game until you cool off." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"You have to learn what makes this or that Sammy run. For one it's a pat on the back, for another it's eating him out, for still another it's a fatherly talk, or something else. You're a fool if you think as I did as a young coach, that you can treat them all alike." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"If a man is a quitter, I'd rather find out in practice than in a game. I ask for all a player has so I'll know later what I can expect." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"Find your own picture, your own self in anything that goes bad. It's awfully easy to mouth off at your staff or chew out players, but if it's bad, and you're the head coach, you're responsible. If we have an intercepted pass, I threw it. I'm the head coach. If we get a punt blocked, I caused it. A bad practice, a bad game, it's up to the head coach to assume his responsibility." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"It's awfully important to win with humility. It's also important to lose. I hate to lose worse than anyone, but if you never lose you won't know how to act. If you lose with humility, then you can come back." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"Losing doesn't make me want to quit. It makes me want to fight that much harder." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"The biggest mistake coaches make is taking borderline cases and trying to save them. I'm not talking about grades now; I'm talking about character. I want to know before a boy enrolls about his home life, and what his parents want him to be." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"What are you doing here? Tell me why you are here. If you are not here to win a national championship, you're in the wrong place. You boys are special. I don't want my players to be like other students. I want special people. You can learn a lot on the football field that isn't taught in the home, the church, or the classroom. There are going to be days when you think you've got no more to give and then you're going to give plenty more. You are going to have pride and class. You are going to be very special. You are going to win the national championship for Alabama." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"I'm no innovator. If anything I'm a stealer, or borrower. I've stolen or borrowed from more people than you can shake a stick at." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"There is no sin in not liking to play; it's a mistake for a boy to be there if he doesn't want to." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"I'm no miracle man. I guarantee nothing but hard work." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"You have to be willing to out-condition your opponents." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"Don't overwork your squad. If you're going to make a mistake, under-work them." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"Be aware of "yes" men. Generally, they are losers. Surround yourself with winners. Never forget - people win." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"If there is one thing that has helped me as a coach, it's my ability to recognize winners, or good people who can become winners by paying the price." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"You take those little rascals, talk to them good, pat them on the back, let them think they are good, and they will go out and beat the biguns." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"If you whoop and holler all the time, the players just get used to it." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"I know what it takes to win. If I can sell them on what it takes to win, then we are not going to lose too many football games." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"If you want to coach you have three rules to follow to win. One, surround yourself with people who can't live without football. I've had a lot of them. Two, be able to recognize winners. They come in all forms. And, three, have a plan for everything. A plan for practice, a plan for the game. A plan for being ahead, and a plan for being behind 20-0 at half, with your quarterback hurt and the phones dead, with it raining cats and dogs and no rain gear because the equipment man left it at home." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"I'm known as a recruiter. Well, you've got to have chicken to make chicken salad." --Paul "Bear" Bryant

"My approach to the game has been the same at all the places I've been. Vanilla. The sure way. That means, first of all, to win physically. If you got eleven on a field, and they beat the other eleven physically, they'll win. They will start forcing mistakes. They'll win in the fourth quarter." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"Little things make the difference. Everyone is well prepared in the big things, but only the winners perfect the little things." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"Scout yourself. Have a buddy who coaches scout you. -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"The first time you quit, it's hard. The second time, it gets easier. The third time, you don't even have to think about it." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"But there's one thing about quitters you have to guard against - they are contagious. If one boy goes, the chances are he'll take somebody with him, and you don't want that. So when they would start acting that way, I used to pack them up and get them out, or embarrass them, or do something to turn them around." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"There's a lot of blood, sweat, and guts between dreams and success." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"People who are in it for their own good are individualists. They don't share the same heartbeat that makes a team so great. A great unit, whether it be football or any organization, shares the same heartbeat." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"I told them my system was based on the "ant plan," that I'd gotten the idea watching a colony of ants in Africa during the war. A whole bunch of ants working toward a common goal." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"We can't have two standards, one set for the dedicated young men who want to do something ambitious and one set for those who don't." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"I honestly believe that if you are willing to out-condition the opponent, have confidence in your ability, be more aggressive than your opponent and have a genuine desire for team victory, you will become the national champions. If you have all the above, you will acquire confidence and poise, and you will have those intangibles that win the close ones." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"Don't ever give up on ability. Don't give up on a player who has it." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"A good, quick, small team can beat a big, slow team any time." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"I have always tried to teach my players to be fighters. When I say that, I don't mean put up your dukes and get in a fistfight over something. I'm talking about facing adversity in your life. There is not a person alive who isn't going to have some awfully bad days in their lives. I tell my players that what I mean by fighting is when your house burns down, and your wife runs off with the drummer, and you've lost your job and all the odds are against you. What are you going to do? Most people just lay down and quit. Well, I want my people to fight back." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"If they don't have a winning attitude, I don't want them." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"I have tried to teach them to show class, to have pride, and to display character. I think football, winning games, takes care of itself if you do that." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"I always want my players to show class, knock'em down, pat on the back, and run back to the huddle." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant

"I tell young players who want to be coaches, who think they can put up with all the headaches and heartaches, can you live without it? If you can't live without it, don't get in it." -- Paul "Bear" Bryant