I graduated from law school in December 1982 and moved to Orlando, Florida where Robert Fraley and I started our own firm. On January 26th I spent the day in the library studying for the Florida bar exam and when I got in the car a guy on the radio made a statement that “it was a sad day in the world of sports”. Have you ever had a feeling that you knew what someone was going to say before they said it? Well, that’s how I felt. Coach Bryant had been admitted to the hospital for tests but from everyone I had talked to there were no major problems and he was going to be fine. But, as we all know now, he had a massive heart attack and passed away in Druid City Hospital in Tuscaloosa. Today is the 33rd anniversary of when that happened.
I had the privilege of playing for Coach Bryant for four years (1971-1974). Practices were hard – Coach would say if you’re gonna quit he’d rather you quit in practice than in the 4th quarter of the game. Coach wasn’t about promoting individuals, it was always about the team – when you win, there’s glory enough for everybody but when you lose, there’s glory for no one. And we had great success on the field too – we won 4 SEC Championships and 1 national championship (1973). During my 4 years in the NFL players and coaches would always want to talk about Coach Bryant and how it was to play for him. I could go on but to say it was a great experience would be a huge understatement.
Something that has always impressed me was how other coaches viewed Coach Bryant:
Joe Paterno – Penn State: “Even his peers in the coaching business felt in awe of him. He had such charisma. He was just a giant figure.”
Bob Devaney – Nebraska: “He was simply the best there ever was.”
John McKay – Southern Cal: “He wasn’t just a coach. He was the coach.”
Here’s a LINK to an article that was on al.com today with pictures and film from Coach Bryant’s funeral in 1983.
If you have a question or comment, you can reach me on my cell (561-662-3251) or my office (205-874-0368) or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jonathan Shugart on his cell (334-559-6906) or his office (205-874-0396 or you can email him at email@example.com.