GATORS BUZZ: Bear Bryant Remembered

“Mama wanted me to be a preacher. I told her coachin’ and preachin’ were a lot alike.”
—Bear Bryant

Nick Saban Sr. and Nick Saban Jr. will be across the field from each other Saturday night.

There is no doubt that Saban is the Football Daddy of Will Muschamp and that the rookie Florida coach is full of his DNA.

Watch how Muschamp stalks the sidelines. Listen how he talks about the game. And now let’s see how far The Pupil has advanced.

The story line of Coach Boom the Pupil and his mentor Nick the Quick  may be riveting, but as long as there is Alabama football, there will never be anything ever bigger than Bear in ‘Bama. Or in the Southeastern Conference. Or in all of college football.

Saban’s got his got his feet firmly planted in Bear Tracks, but no matter how he rolls with the Crimson Tide, he knows he can’t wash away those impressive marks left behind by Bryant.

The Bear had won more college football games than any coach when he retired in December, 1982 after beating Illinois for No. 323 in the Liberty Bowl – a streak that began at Maryland in 1945 when his Terps beat little-known Guilford, 60-6. He died shortly thereafter.

“I’ll put you through hell, but at the end of it all we’ll be champions.”
Bear Bryant

Some of us with gray hair still think Paul Bryant might have been the greatest college football coach of all time.

For a coach with such a reputation for ferocity, however, The Bear was the slowest-talking, country-bumpkinest, whisky-drinkin’est, Chesterfield-smokin’-est barefoot Southern boy I’ve ever seen.

When you were in his presence, however, there was the awe factor.

One night before my hair was gray, a long time before there was the Internet and coaches actually trusted sports writers, I sat in a nickel-dime poker game played in the SEC hospitality room at Silver Springs. Among those at the table: Mary Harmon Bryant, Mrs. Bear.

It was a social game and there was more talking going on than card playing. Suddenly I looked up and there at the door was a silhouette of an imposing figure, sans shoes, holding a Chesterfield cigarette in one hand and a glass of bourbon in the other. He chatted for a moment and then departed. I can’t remember what he said. I do remember his gravelly voice and the lasting impression of his image.

“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.”
—Bear Bryant

At Florida, Muschamp has a few ghosts to chase — Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer specifically. As great as they were as coaches — and both are near the top of my list — Coach Boom will at least be following mortal men.

Today, Bear Bryant legend is even bigger than the coach, or the man. You cannot surpass deities.

“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 live without it, don’t get in it.”
—Bear Bryant.

Listen to Buddy Martin’s Sports Page weekdays 5-6 p.m. at WOCA.com.

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1 Comment

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One response to “GATORS BUZZ: Bear Bryant Remembered

  1. Chris

    You are right. There will never be another. Thank you, Buddy, for telling the stories that need to be heard by the people who have come after. I raise my bourbon glass.

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