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30 Years Later: Remembering Paul Bear Bryant (AUDIO)

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It is hard to walk around Tuscaloosa without remembering “The Bear.”

Just take a trip down Paul Brant Drive, stop into the Bryant Museum, then continue on to the cathedral of a stadium known as Bryant-Denny. Then look around the University of Alabama campus and notice his statue out front in the champion’s plaza, and his name on the hall that houses student athletes.

There is no escaping Bryant’s legacy.  His voice still booms through the stadium speakers on game day as many in attendance are wearing his signature trademark houndstooth in some way, shape, or form.

After becoming a high school star on the defensive line at Fordyce High School(Arkansas), Bryant joined the Crimson Tide in 1931.  He would never be the star he was in high school, but was named second team All-SEC in 1934, helping lead Alabama to a national championship in the same year. Then in 1935, his legacy started to grow as Bryant played against rival Tennessee, with a partially broken leg.

While the legacy began as a player, it was as a coach where Bryant made a name for himself.

At thirty-two years old, years after serving as an assistant, Bryant took over at Maryland.  A year later, Bryant was back in the Southeastern Conference where he coached the Kentucky Wildcats for eight seasons, leading the program to five, top 25 finishes.

Amid the struggles of coaching football at the same time of legendary Kentucky Basketball coach Adolph Rupp, Bryant left for Texas A&M.  After a 1-9 season in his first year (which began with the famed camp in Junction,Texas), Bryant rebuilt the Aggies, eventually leading them to a Southwest Conference championship.

Then, “Mama called.”

Bryant returned to Tuscaloosa as the head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide in 1958.  Then as they say the rest is history: 6 national championships, 13 Southeastern Conference Championships, and 323 wins all time.

On the field, his credentials speak for themselves.  But the message he delivered in molding his teams can still be heard today in his former players, including former Tight End Ozzie Newsome, the current General Manager of the Baltimore Ravens.

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In the past four seasons,Alabama has seen a level of success fans have not seen since the days of the legendary head coach. While the current discussion has turned to comparisons between Bryant and Nick Saban in terms of wins and losses, former Alabama Linebacker Lee Roy Jordan says the similarity between the two coaches has nothing to do with on field performance.

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Audio coming courtesy of The Game on Tuscaloosa’s Sports Authority, 99.1 WDGM. 

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