Posts tagged ‘Bear Bryant’
I love college towns, and Tuscaloosa seems like a pretty great college town.
I’m typing this from the air-conditioned comfort of a frozen yogurt shop on The Strip, the section of University Blvd. that most resembles our College Avenue. Outside, it is really, really hot — 94 right now, apparently — and really crowded. Driving and trying to park on or near campus is a nightmare, and this is the day before the game. Not sure how bad it’ll be Saturday, but I’m not looking forward to finding out.
Those complaints aside, (more…)
This is the story of a group of Italian-Catholic guys from Pennsylvania who had to go a thousand miles to find a football coach to root for.
When I interviewed current University of Alabama president Robert Witt ’68 Ph.D. a few weeks ago, he mentioned a group of Pennsylvania residents who were among the Tide’s most loyal fans. I assumed they were Bama alumni who had relocated to the Keystone State, but Witt said he didn’t believe they were.
He was right. The membership of the Alabama Booster Club of Bridgeport, Pa., doesn’t include a single Penn Stater. Though logic dictates that maybe it should.
Instead, Johnny Nicola and about 30 of his family and close friends will be in Tuscaloosa this weekend to support the team they’ve been following for 40 years. Here’s how these guys from outside Philly came to idolize the pride of Southern football.
“My brother in law, Tony Chiccino, played for Coach Bryant at the University of Kentucky, and he was a teammate of Dude Hennessey, who became one of Coach Bryant’s assistants at Alabama,” Nicola explains. “Tony always said, ‘If you want to follow good football, you gotta go down south.’”
For what it’s worth, this was in the late ’60s, when (more…)
Jay Paterno ’91 is a regular columnist for StateCollege.com, and his latest piece is well timed for Saturday’s game. In it, Jay shares his memories of Penn State-Alabama games past, offers some insights into the similarities between his father and Bear Bryant, and shares a couple of cool mementos from his youth: a letter Bryant wrote him 28 years ago, and this terrific photo of his dad and Bryant taken by his mom, Sue ’62.
I’m off to Tuscaloosa this morning, and technology willing, hope to have a bunch of posts over the next couple of days. Stay tuned.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
Working on our Sept/Oct issue, I had a lot of fun going through the history books to dig up the most memorable moments from Penn State’s 13 previous football games against Alabama. (Check page 28 if you haven’t already seen it.) Part of the fun was looking for highlights on YouTube. The game clips are great, but there are plenty of other unexpected gems out there, too.
Among the game highlights, the defining moment (unfortunately) goes against the Nittany Lions. It’s the decisive play of the 1979 Sugar Bowl, and arguably the most famous goal-line stand in college football history.
Only slightly less painful is the blocked field goal that ended Penn State’s comeback attempt in 1989. We’ll balance that out with the pivotal moments of the 1985 game at Beaver Stadium, a battle of top-10 teams that was ultimately won on a touchdown pass by Nittany Lion backup QB Matt Knizner ’87.
It’s a great moment: The pronunciation of Knizner’s name giving the announcer fits, and then Knizner, on his first play subbing for injured starter John Shaffer ’87, fooling everyone except his coaches and teammates by rolling out on third and short and throwing for what proved to be the winning touchdown. Given the circumstances, this might’ve been the least-likely play call ever made by Joe Paterno and his staff. Of course, that’s why it was perfect.
Another bonus of scrolling through YouTube pages was seeing how TV promos have changed over the years. Here’s this, from the lead-in to the ’79 Sugar Bowl. I imagine it was cutting-edge at the time…
Then there’s this clip, previewing the 1982 game in Birmingham, which ended up being Penn State’s only loss en route to the program’s first national title. Contrast that with this ESPN promo for Saturday’s game. The HD-quality video and that ominous music do have an impact.
Finally, there are the coaches, and as I quickly found out, YouTube has a ton of great stuff on Bear Bryant. It’s hard for Penn Staters to imagine a coach more iconic than Joe Paterno, but Bryant sure seems to be. For starters, there’s this clip introducing one of the scores (hundreds? thousands?) of young men who’ve been named after Paul Bryant by parents whose blood runs crimson and white…
These folks, to borrow a phrase, are all in.
There’s also this remarkable clip of Bryant doing what appears to be a paid motivational film for Coca-Cola salesmen. It’s worth the five minutes of your time, if only to see Bryant, superhero-style, shed his coaching gear to unveil a Coke delivery man’s get-up underneath. Oh, and to hear this: “In a game, if a lineman lets up one minute, the opponent will be all over him—push his face in the dirt and make him eat it. It’s the same way on your route.”
I’m biased, but I’ve gotta go with Joe’s acting over the Bear’s. There is, of course, his classic turn in a Big Ten Network ad a couple years ago, and then these long-lost commercials for Burger King.
Somewhere, I still have a bunch of those cups.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
I’m among the fortunate few thousand Penn Staters heading down this weekend to Tuscaloosa, where, if you hadn’t heard, the Nittany Lions will face defending champion and No. 1-ranked Alabama on Saturday night. It’s the renewal of a great rivalry between two of college football’s most successful programs, each represented by an iconic coach: Paul “Bear” Bryant, who died 27 years ago, and of course, Joe Paterno, who broke Bryant’s record for career coaching wins in 2001. (That’s Bryant and Paterno before their teams’ classic battle in the 1979 Sugar Bowl.)
I’ve got a bunch of Alabama-Penn State posts coming in the next few days, and hope to come up with some good stuff while I’m down in Tuscaloosa, but a piece that ran in Sunday’s New York Times seemed like a fitting way to kick off our game-week coverage. Written by Malcolm Moran, the longtime respected sportswriter and now head of Penn State’s John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, it recalls a young reporter meeting the Bear for the first time more than three decades ago. It’s a quick read and well worth the time.
Ryan Jones, senior editor