The Blonde and the Bama Football Player. It was the mid-1970’s, a fall Saturday in Birmingham. The weather was mild, neither too hot nor too cold. The sun was shining. Some would argue Coach Bryant, among his other abilities, had more to do with the atmospheric conditions than God as he brought his Bama team to Legion field from T-Town in two Greyhound buses.
By the mid-fourth quarter Bama had the game in hand, and the fans who were nail biters had to find another worry to occupy themselves.
I don’t recall whether our son knew any of the players on the other team that year, if he did, he tried to find them to have a short conversation after the game was over. He would also seek out the fellow on the other team who played the same position he did, and they too would have a chat for three or four minutes.
Then our son took off for the locker room. He spent two minutes in celebration of the victory, a minute in the shower, a minute to dress, and scurried for one of the buses parked behind Legion Field.
There were already a couple of players who had outpaced him, and were sitting in the back of the bus. He picked out a seat about the middle of the bus. If all three crouched behind the seats in front of them, none of them could be seen from the front of the bus.
Are we talking about some covert action here? Not exactly. Coach Bryant always rode with the team, but they never knew which bus he would ride in. Sometimes he rode in the same bus back to T-Town, and sometimes he switched to the other one. He always sat in the front of the bus.
Why was this a big deal? The last players to board the bus ran the risk of two of them having to sit right by Coach Bryant. There would have been two across the aisle, but they had a false sense of security they were distant enough to be safe.
Coach Bryant had a condition, I’m not sure what the medical/scientific term was for it. I think the players called it a photographic memory with total instant recall. Bama probably had no less than a total of sixty players in the game that day, and Coach Bryant could remember every play, and what every player did on that play.
Now winning was good, but it wasn’t everything. At least a win assured the two closest to Coach Bryant of a trip back to T-Town with possible pleasantries exchanged with The Man. On the other hand they were not guaranteed, because what errors those two made during the game could come front and center for a full discussion.
Of course if Bama lost the game, which fortunately did not happen often, the entire team preferred to be on one bus, while Coach Bryant and one of the drivers was on the other bus.
Coach Bryant at times may have insisted the two players closest to him change seats with two more players he wanted to “talk to” on the way back to the home destination. This was the reason for players to crouch behind seats, seat cushions, perhaps even temporarily hide in the luggage bin above the seats, or whatever protection they could find. After all, Coach Bryant, not seeing them immediately, might assume they were on the other bus.
This is not to say Coach Bryant never reviewed film later. It did give him the benefit of picking up some small details he had not observed in his total recall. Examples would be a player’s shoelace on his cleat being untied, or a player who had failed to shave the morning of the game.
There was a certain serenity as the three sat on the bus, probably because Coach Bryant was still at a press conference. Suddenly the bus door that had been partially closed, swung open, possibly the driver or Coach Bryant or one of the linemen who was checking to see if the door hinges were in working order.
It was none of these. It was a good-looking blonde headed young lady, possibly even a student at UA. She immediately professed she was here to kiss an Alabama football player.
As she walked down the aisle, the first one she came to was our son. Now the players respected him for the ability he had at his position, but his name was easily lost when it came to the big names who played for Bama.
He told the young lady he was a nobody, and she needed to kiss somebody better known than he was. I would say his concerted effort to dissuade her in her search to plant one on some body, on a scale of one to ten, came in around a minus fourteen.
You must remember that in addition to playing football, we hoped our son was getting some kind of an education at the UA institution of higher learning. With my wife and I not quite sure where his grade point average was hovering at this time, I felt reassured when he stacked adjectives on top of adjectives as he later described to me the beauty of this golden-haired girl. He certainly had not learned those from us or at the high school where he ran out the door when they handed him his diploma. He indeed was getting educated.
Well, they lip-locked for a minute or two, until suddenly out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of Coach Bryant heading for one of the buses. If he boarded the bus with the girl and my son, he was certain Coach Bryant would have him running stadium steps 24/7, even while Bama was off playing a game somewhere. His reprieve would come on the day of his graduation. Fortunately Coach Bryant got on the other bus.
Our son helped the girl exit the bus ASAP, but not before she gave him another peck on the cheek. He swore the other two players on the bus to secrecy until the year 2050, and tried to wipe the smile off his face all the way back to T-Town.
If memory recalls, he did a reversal of the norm by getting her signature rather than giving her his.
Did this incident inspire him to play better football for the rest of his time at UA? A source did tell me at practice the next week on a scale of one to ten, our son pulled a plus fifty, and Coach Bryant was trying to figure out why.