It’s amazing isn’t it? I never shared this earth with Coach Bryant, but his style and life teachings are almost as strong as they were 25 years ago. In fact, he’s still such a factor in the world of SEC football that he still has rival fans obsessed with bashing him to this very day.
I have to admit, I don’t have the same feelings that my father’s generation has for Bryant. He was the only thing to take great pride in during an era of nothing but bad news coming out of Alabama (the 1960’s). He was a big time life coach for the generations before mine, wanting people to live a certain way if they played for him. Yes, he wasn’t a perfect man, but I think the best examples shouldn’t be perfect. Heck, Bryant would be the first guy to tell you he wasn’t perfect:
A man, a big man who looked as though he was dressed for a round of golf, walked up to the airplane seat and said in a gravely voice, “Are you Robert Shuller?” and Dr. Shuller inwardly cringed because they’d taken the early-morning flight hoping to escape this very thing.
“Yes I am. Good morning,” said the preacher, immediately shaking his newspaper and burying his face in it. But the man stood still, not to be dissuaded by body language, and said simply, “My momma used to watch you every Sunday before she passed away.
”Dr. Shuller looked up for only a milli-second and responded, “Oh, I appreciate that …” before going back to his paper. But the big man still stood there, ignoring the silence.
“My wife watches you now all the time,” said the man, pausing just so before adding, “and I guess I watch you when I can.”
Dr. Shuller, sensing this one wasn’t taking the hint, sighed in a way of resignation, tucked his newspaper away and finally stood to speak. He stuck out his hand, smiled like he does, and said, “Well, it’s great to meet a fellow Christian.”
The man, taking Dr. Shuller’s hand and shaking it, replied, “That’s my deal … I don’t know if I’m a Christian or not. My name is Paul Bryant. A lot of people call me ‘Bear.’”
…“I had a simple index card in my shirt pocket, one I’d jot notes to myself during the day, so I pulled it out and wrote on that card, ‘All ye who come unto me I will be no means cast away.’ Then I drew a single line under it and handed it to Coach Bryant.
“Coach, you believe that?”
“Yessir, I do,” answered Bear Bryant so Dr. Shuller gently responded, “Then sign it.”
“I don’t know whether I should do that right now. I don’t know that now’s the time,” said Coach Bryant, the humanly struggle so strong within him,” and Dr. Shuller again put his hand on Coach’s shoulder and said, “I don’t know whether this plane will land in a little while, either.”
Coach Bryant locked eyes with Dr. Shuller and said simply, “Gimme your pen.”
Years later Dr. Shuller’s eyes glistened as he told how Coach Bryant signed his name on that card and then reached in his pant’s pocket to pull out his wallet.
“That wallet was thick and had these big rubber bands around it. Coach Bryant took that card and he folded it, creasing it with those crooked fingers and then he folded the card again before tucking it in his wallet,” Dr. Shuler told me.
Then he said, “Coach Bryant looked me in the eye, said a simple ‘Thank you’ and went back to his seat on the airplane. Six weeks after that, Bear Bryant died.”
Yes, I do find it odd how certain people mention Bryant (not as much as you think when it comes to the regular season.), but it is what it is. People rarely say “Bear would’ve done it that way!”, because Bryant doesn’t affect the play on the field in 2008.
The thing about Bryant is how he affected this town, this university, and his players. It’s hard to explain since I was only born years after he died, but it is obvious.
I’ll have more on the two new OC candidates: John McNulty (Rutgers), and Jim McElwain (Fresno State).