Bear Bryant. This legendary Southern coach hardly needs any introduction, but as college football season is upon us, we take a look at Paul William Bryant on this date, the anniversary of his birth.
I have two connections to Coach Bryant. While most immediately associate “Bear” with the University of Alabama, and the famous houndstooth (remind us sometime to tell you about the time we accidentally showed up at a Ole Miss game with only a houndstooth umbrella on a drizzly day — Becky and I thought we might get jumped!), many don’t realize that he also coached at other prestigious Southern schools, including two very dear to my heart – my beloved University of Kentucky and, my alma mater, Union University.
After graduating, and playing football at the University of Alabama, Bear Bryant accepted his first coaching job at Union University before returning to Alabama as assistant coach under Frank Thomas. After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he returned to accept the head coaching job at the University of Maryland for one season, and then moved onto the University of Kentucky. Coach Bryant coached the Wildcats for eight seasons, winning the SEC title in 1950. From UK, he also coached at Texas A&M and served as athletic director there before moving onto the University of Alabama in 1958.
Bryant coached at the University of Alabama, his alma mater, winning six national championships there and coaching for 25 years. An Arkansas native, and a Southern man through and through, this symbol of football was buried in Birmingham, Alabama. He has had been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan, been the subject of numerous movies, songs, and even had a memorial U.S. postage stamp in his honor. This Southern legend is the face of football, so we remember his legacy as we enter into our favorite of all Southern seasons — fall football season!