All Things Hockey In The Carolinas

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Coach Bear Bryant

"Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant - Be Nice to People"

At a TD Club meeting many years before his death, Coach Paul "Bear"
Bryant told the following story, which was typical of the way he operated:

I had just been named the new head coach at Alabama and was off in my
old car down in South Alabama, recruiting a prospect who was supposed to
have been a pretty good player and I was havin' trouble finding the place.
Getting hungry I spied an old cinder block building with a small sign
out front that simply said "Restaurant."

I pull up, go in and every head in the place turns to stare at me. Seems
I'm the only white 'fella' in the place. But the food smelled good so I
skip a table and go up to a cement bar and sit. A big ole man in a tee
shirt and cap comes over and says, "What do you need?" I told him I
needed lunch and what did they have today?

He says, "You probably won't like it here, today we're having chitlins,
collared greens and black eyed peas with cornbread. I'll bet you don't
even know what chitlins are, do you?" I looked him square in the eye and
said, "I'm from Arkansas , I've probably eaten a mile of them. Sounds like I'm
in the right place." They all smiled as he left to serve me up a big plate.

When he comes back he says, "You ain't from around here then?" And I
explain I'm the new football coach up in Tuscaloosa at the University
and I'm here to find whatever that boy's name was and he says, yeah I've
heard of him, he's supposed to be pretty good. And he gives me directions to
the school so I can meet him and his coach.

As I'm paying up to leave, I remember my manners and leave a tip, not
too big to be flashy, but a good one and he told me lunch was on him, but I
told him for a lunch that good, I felt I should pay. The big man asked
me if I had a photograph or something he could hang up to show I'd been

I was so new that I didn't have any yet. It really wasn't that big a
thing back then to be asked for, but I took a napkin and wrote his name and
address on it and told him I'd get him one. I met the kid I was 'lookin'
for later that afternoon and I don't remember his name, but do remember
I didn't think much of him when I met him I had wasted a day, or so I

When I got back to Tuscaloosa late that night, I took that napkin from
my shirt pocket and put it under my keys so I wouldn't forget it. Heck,
back then I was excited that anybody would want a picture of me. And the next
day we found a picture and I wrote on it, "Thanks for the best lunch
I've ever had, Paul Bear Bryant."

Now let's go a whole 'buncha' years down the road. Now we have black
players at Alabama and I'm back down in that part of the country
scouting an offensive lineman we sure needed. Y'all remember, (and I forget the
name, but it's not important to the story), well anyway, he's got two
friends going to Auburn and he tells me he's got his heart set on Auburn
too, so I leave empty handed and go on see some others while I'm down

Two days later, I'm in my office in Tuscaloosa and the phone rings and
it's this kid who just turned me down, and he says, "Coach, do you still want
me at Alabama ?" And I said, "Yes I sure do." And he says, O.K. he'll come.
And I say, "Well son, what changed your mind?" And he said, "When my
grandpa found out that I had a chance to play for you and said no, he
pitched a fit and told me I wasn't going nowhere but Alabama , and
wasn't playing for nobody but you. He thinks a lot of you and has ever since
y'all met."

Well, I didn't know his granddad from Adam's housecat so I asked him who
his granddaddy was and he said, "You probly don't remember him, but you
ate in his restaurant your first year at Alabama and you sent him a picture
that he's had hung in that place ever since. That picture's his pride
joy and he still tells everybody about the day that Bear Bryant came in
and had chitlins with him. My grandpa said that when you left there, he
never expected you to remember him or to send him that picture, but you kept
your word to him and to Grandpa, that's everything. He said you could teach
me more than football and I had to play for a man like you, so I guess I'm
going to."

I was floored. But I learned that the lessons my mama taught me were
always right. It don't cost nuthin' to be nice. It don't cost 'nuthin' to do
the right thing most of the time, and it costs a lot to lose your good name
by breakin' your word to someone.

When I went back to sign that boy, I looked up his Grandpa and he's
still running that place, but it looks a lot better now; and he didn't have
chitlins that day, but he had some ribs that woulda' made Dreamland
proud and I made sure I posed for a lot of pictures; and don't think I didn't
leave some new ones for him, too, along with a signed football.

I made it clear to all my assistants to keep this story and these
lessons in mind when they're out on the road. And if you remember anything else
from me, remember this - It really doesn't cost anything to be nice, and
the rewards can be unimaginable. "

Coach Bryant was in the presence of these few gentlemen for only
minutes, and he defined himself for life, to these gentlemen, as a nice man.
Regardless of our profession, we do define ourselves by how we treat
others, and how we behave in the presence of others, and most of the
time, we have only minutes or seconds to leave a lasting impression - we can
be rude, crude, arrogant, cantankerous, or we can be nice. Nice is always a
better choice.