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AFM Magazine

Legends of the Hall

Bear Bryant
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With 119 chapters and over 12,000 members nationwide, The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame, a non-profit educational organization, runs programs designed to use the power of amateur football in developing scholarship, citizenship and athletic achievement in today’s young people. NFF programs include the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind., Play It Smart, the NFF Center for Youth Development Through Sport at Springfield College, the NFL/NFF Coaching Academy, and annual scholarships of nearly $1 million for college and high school scholar-athletes. Each month American Football Monthly will profile a member of the College Football Hall of Fame – our August subject is legendary Alabama Coach Bear Bryant.

September 11, 1913 - Paul William Bryant is born in Moro Bottom Southern Arkansas.
1930 - Bryant leads his high school team, the Fordyce Red Bugs to a perfect season and a state championship.
1933 - In the first year of the SEC, Bryant helps the Crimson Tide to the initial SEC Championship.
1934 - Alabama goes 10-0 and beats Stanford in the Rose Bowl.
1941 - Enlists in the Navy.
1945 - Bryant becomes head coach at Maryland.
1946 - Accepts head coaching job at Kentucky and turns a 2-8 team into a 7-3 one.
1950 - Bryant guides UK to an 11-1 record and the only SEC title in school history and upsets No. 1 Oklahoma 13-7 in the Sugar Bowl.
1953 - Leaves Kentucky for Texas A&M.
1957 - Aggie John David Crow wins the Heisman.
1958 - The Bryant Era begins at Alabama.
1961 - Bryant leads The Tide to their first AP national title and becomes national coach of the year.
1979 - Alabama beats Penn State 14-7 to clinch their sixth national championship.
1982 - Bryant announces his retirement.
1986 - Inducted into College Football Hall of Fame

Paul “Bear” Bryant is considered one of the greatest college football coaches in the history of the sport. Known for his iron will, stern discipline and good sportsmanship, he remains an icon for coaches nationwide. He and his famous houndstooth hat graced the sidelines of Alabama for 25 years, but little do people know that he had a long resumé before reaching Tuscaloosa.

After graduating from Alabama in 1935, Bryant became an assistant coach at his alma mater. In 1941, he enlisted in the Navy where he rose to the rank of lieutenant commander. After World War II, Bryant was named head coach of Maryland in 1945. He turned the team into winners with a 6-2-1 record. After just one year at Maryland, Bryant went to the University of Kentucky to coach the Wildcats. He spent eight years there and gave the school its first SEC championship in 1950. In 1954, Bryant left to coach Texas A&M. It was this team’s pre-season training camp in Junction, Texas that founded the infamous “Junction Boys.”

In 1957, running back John David Crow became Bryant’s first and only player to receive the Heisman Trophy. It wasn’t until 1958 and with 13 years of head coaching under his belt that Bear Bryant returned to Alabama to coach the Crimson Tide. Over his quarter-century reign, he had a 232-46-9 record, six national championships, 12 bowl wins and 13 SEC championships. Bryant was also named National Coach of the Year in 1961, 1971 and 1973. His career record was 323-85-17, which gave him the most wins in college football history.

This man, who received his nickname by wrestling a bear in a carnival, set the precedent for coaching college football. He announced his retirement during the 1982 season, but intended to remain Alabama’s athletic director. His final game was the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn. The Tide won, giving Bryant his 323rd career win. Just four weeks after the victory, 69-year-old Bear Bryant died of heart failure. His persona represents all that is great in the game of football, and his legacy will remain prestigious for decades to come. “He wasn’t just a coach,” former USC coach John McKay said. “He was the coach.”


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