Tradition was on the wall
Jim Grammer, When it was a game
Anyone who spent any time involved with the athletic programs at The University of Alabama or Auburn, or any of the other great schools in the South, can tell you that they were indoctrinated into the tradition of the school and the athletic program.
We were constantly reminded of those who came before us and those who built the tradition we enjoyed.
I doubt if it's still there, but in the hallway outside our dressing rooms at Alabama, there were huge pictures of the All-Americans and great coaches from years before.
There was Bully Vandegraaff, Fred Sington, Pooly Hubert, Johnny Mack Brown, Tarzan White, Harry Gilmer, Coach Wallace Wade, Coach Hank Crisp and Coach Frank Thomas. Many others also were on that wall.
All the greats from the past, there for all of us to see and, hopefully, inspire us.
I'm sure the same thing was true at Auburn and other schools.
These pictures were strategically placed for us to see everyday, several times a day. The first impression of one would be that the Singtons, Lee Roy Jordans, Joe Namaths and Johnny Mack Browns were the only one who really built the tradition. I, personally, believe this is far from the truth, and I believe Coach Bryant felt the same way.
Coach Bryant often spoke of the players who had paid such a great price to build the great tradition that was Alabama. It didn't quite register with me at the time what he was talking about.
Years later, I realized he was talking about guys that gave the game everything they had, even though what they had was not quite up to some of the great All-Americans.
He was speaking of the little guys that didn't have as much ability as some of the others, but wouldn't let something like that stop them from competing against the great players and often beating them.
It took me a while to understand the great traditions of the Alabama program or the Auburn program, or anywhere else, were built by a lot of "average" players that were willing to give more than they had to be what we call "winners."
Coach often made the statement, "give me a little guy that may not have much ability, but he don't know it, and he thinks he can be great and is willing to do whatever it takes to be great, and I'll beat your guy that has a world of ability – but ain't willing to pay the price – nine out of 10 times."
I think this is true for a lot of things, not just athletics.