Alabama Not Just Football: 30 Amazing People Who Were Built By Bama

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Paul “Bear” Bryant

You didn’t really think we had forgotten him, did you?

Paul Bryant was born in Moro Bottom, Arkansas in 1913. When he was 13 years old, he got the nickname that would follow him for the rest of his life when he fought a carnival bear. In 1931, he accepted a scholarship to play football at the University of Alabama. He played on Frank Thomas’ 1934 national championship team.

After graduation, Bryant joined Thomas’s staff as an assistant. Four years later, he went to Vanderbilt as an assistant. At the end of the 1941 season, he was offered the head coaching job at Arkansas. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he joined the Navy and served during World War II.

Bear Bryant returned home after the war and took the head coaching job at the University of Maryland. His team was successful but his relationship with the University president was not, and after one season Coach Bryant moved on to coach the Kentucky Wildcats. Bryant coached at Kentucky for eight years, leading the Cats to a SEC Championship and four bowl appearances.

In 1954, he accepted a job as head football coach and athletic director at Texas A&M. After a difficult first season, he led the Aggies to a Southwest Conference Championship in 1956. In 1957 Bryant saw John David Crow win the Heisman trophy, his only player to do so.

In 1958, Mama called and Coach Bryant came home to Tuscaloosa. In 25 years at Alabama, Bryant’s teams won six national championships and thirteen SEC championships. He was the three-time national coach of the year and the award was eventually renamed after him. He was twelve-time SEC coach of the year. The University of Alabama’s Denny Stadium was renamed Bryant-Denny Stadium in 1975, while he was still coaching.

Coach Bryant, who had famously joked that he’d “probably croak in a week” without football, died in January of 1983, less than a month after coaching his final game. Super Bowl XVII, played later that month, was dedicated to Bear Bryant and a moment of silence was observed in his memory. In February 1983, Bryant was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1996, he was featured on a postage stamp.

Bryant also served as the athletic director at the University of Alabama and is credited with revitalizing the men’s basketball program and saving the gymnastics program. Sarah Patterson, the last remaining head coach hired by Bear Bryant, retired from UA in 2014.

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