Crimson Tide Legacy Profile Part One: Paul William "Bear" Bryant

Heath McGuffCorrespondent IJune 15, 2009

Paul William Bryant was born September 11, 1913. Bryant was the 11th child of 12 and was born to William and Ida Bryant.

Bryant and his family lived on a farm in Moro Bottom, Arkansas. Paul earned his nickname "Bear" at the young age of 13 after agreeing to wrestle a live bear.

This nickname would carry on just as far as his legacy has today.

In the eighth grade, Bryant stood 6'1'' tall and played varsity football for Fordyce High School in Fordyce, Arkansas.

Coming up through the program at Fordyce, Paul and his team had grown, and finally won the 1930 Arkansas High School State Championship in Bryant's senior year of high school.

The way "Bear" Bryant was playing ball, it appeared his football career had just been laid out for him.

Just before graduation, "Bear" Bryant had left Fordyce High school without receiving his diploma!

Oddly enough Bryant was offered a full scholarship to the University of Alabama to play football.

However, this posed a major problem. Bryant, knowing you could not get into any college without a high school diploma, returned to Tuscaloosa County High School in the fall of 1931 to finish his requirements to graduate.

Bryant almost missed his shot to play for 'Bama, but the Jordan twins saved him.

The coach at the time, Hank Crisp, was recruiting the Jordan twins from Fordyce High School. After the Twins went to Arkansas, Crisp returned to 'Bama with the not-so-popular Bryant.

When Bryant did not have his face stuffed in books or homework, he could be found practicing with the Tide to prepare him for the college level.

This turned out to be great for Bama, as they went on to win the 1933 SEC Championship. Then in 1934 the team went 10-0 and defeated power house Stanford in the Rose Bowl.

Bryant eventually fell in love with Mary Harmon Black, and they had a secret wedding. Bryant feared Crisp would not approve of such actions.

The following season, Bryant led the Tide to a win over Tennessee with a broken bone in his left leg. 

Form 1936 to 1941, Bryant served as an assistant coach for three different schools, including 'Bama.

Later in 1941, Bryant entered the Navy after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Although he never saw the front line, his training skills were used to a great extent in WWII.

After the war he returned to the U.S.A., and was coach of three different teams before coming back to his alma mater, the Alabama Crimson Tide, for one of his 25 seasons with there.

In Bryant's 25 years with the Tide, his record totaled 232 wins with only 46 losses!

Bryant was a ten-time SEC Coach of the year and a four-time National Coach of the Year.

Later the name was changed from National Coach of the Year to the Paul "Bear" Bryant Award.

Bryant also led the Tide to 31 bowl appearances, 24 of them being in consecutive years. Bryant announced he would retire after the season of 1982.

In "Bear's" career with the Tide, he claimed six national championships and 13 conference championships. He has gone down as the greatest coach in 'Bama football history.

No later than a year after Bear retired, he checked into a Tuscaloosa hospital with complaints of chest pains. Bryant passed away on January 26, 1983.

Paul W. Bryant Museum, Paul W. Bryant Drive, and Bryant Denny Stadium were all named in honor of "Bear" Bryant. Bryant once said, "There's a lot of blood, sweat, and guts between dreams and success."

There is no doubt in a 'Bama fans' mind that Bryant's legacy does not exist, from fans to alumni that he is still with us.

Paul William "Bear" Bryant and his legacy affected more than just Alabama football, it made an impact on the whole state of Alabama.

"Bear" Bryant will forever be remembered, not only by his legacy, but what a great man he was. Without a doubt, Bryant will never be forgotten.