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Hartselle Enquirer

Coach Bryant wasn't perfect

By Staff
Jim Grammer, When it was a game
It's hard for me to believe that Coach Bryant has been dead 20 years now. I guess the older you get the faster time flies. I won't bore you with more accolades of his greatness, that has been done to death by sportswriters and loyal Alabama fans. In fact, I don't think he was such a "great" man at all. I also think he would be the first to agree with me.
No, I'm a firm believer in the philosophy expressed by the late Admiral William "Bull" Halsey when he said, "There are no great men, just ordinary men with great challenges which they are forced by circumstances to meet." I think this is exactly what Coach Bryant was, an ordinary man that faced great challenges, even though the challenges were such that he placed them on himself.
We all have heard the story of how he came from a very poor family, struggling to make a meager living out of the Arkansas soil and how he wrestled a bear for a dollar. We have heard the story of how he was the "other end" in the days that Don Hudson got all the headlines with the Crimson Tide. We all know the story of the Junction Boys when he was at Texas A &M and the winning tradition and the National Championships at Alabama in the 60s and 70s. We've all heard the old men sit around the caf/ or county store and talk about "how tough ole Bear was." But, I'm going to go out on a limb and tell of the real man that I knew; the mortal that was prone to mistakes just like all of us. The man that tried to ease his own pain in ways that are culturally unacceptable in today's society-the real Paul Bryant.
Coach Bryant was more than a chain smoker. I often saw him with two Chesterfield's burning in his ashtray, light another and continue, in turn, smoke all three of them. In today's world, such a man would be ridiculed and run out of town by the "health police."
Coach Bryant, let's face it, was an alcoholic. He admitted as much and in his later years went a year without a drink and I think he was proud of that. He threw a good one the night after the Orange Bowl down in Miami and cussed us all out, players, coaches, wives, girl friends, and anybody else who happened to be present. He was intoxicated and really made a scene. We all felt bad about that night. But, the thing that has always impressed me was the next day he came up to me as we were waiting to catch the plane back to Tuscaloosa and put his big arm on my shoulder and mumbled something about "being sorry for last night." I have since learned that he apologized to only a few of us that were seniors and had just played our last game.
Coach Bryant was not the most polished speaker or one with the greatest enunciation of words from the English language. Let's face it, he
was not the most educated person in the world.
He came to Tuscaloosa from Fordyce, Ark., and Coach Thomas made him take some classes at Tuscaloosa High School for the purpose of remediation in math and English before entering the University. This was to give him some semblance of a chance in his studies in college. He, also, was not the most studious college student, skipping classes and making very poor grades. He did not graduate.
With all these unimpressive characteristics that would instantly label one as a "loser" in today's society, Coach Bryant is considered still today, 20 years after his death, the most successful and most popular person in the state of Alabama and one of the most famous people in the nation.
So the moral of this story is that we need to realize that even so called "great" people have flaws and make mistakes.
When you see a young person that has made some mistakes or taken up a bad habit, it doesn't mean they are a bad person. In fact they may someday be called "great."

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