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It don't cost nothing to be nice


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A beautiful life lesson and one of

the best of Bear Bryant's legacy.


It Don't Cost Nothing to be Nice


At a Touchdown Club meeting many years before his death Coach Paul Bear Bryant told the following:


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 having 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 in the place. But the food smelled good so I skip the tables and go 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 said "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 (small intestines of hogs fried as food in the deep South) 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?"


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 there. 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 thought.


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. Back then I was excited that anybody would want a picture of me. The next day we found a picture and I wrote on it "Thanks for the best lunch I've ever had."


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 there.


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 OK, he'll come.




And I say "Well son what changed your mind?"




And he said "When my grandpa found out 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 probably 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 is his pride and joy and he still tells everybody about the day 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 the lessons my Mama taught me were always right. It don't cost nothing to be nice. It don't cost nothing to do the right thing most of the time and it costs a lot to lose your good name by breaking 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, 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. If you remember anything else from me remember this: It really doesn't cost anything to be nice and the rewards can be unimaginable.




By Coach Paul Bear Bryant



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He sure didn't seem like such a great guy in that Junction movie.


Killing kids physically isn't my idea of a great humanitarian.


Just sayin


I didn't see "that Junction movie." Doesn't mean I can't appreciate the message of the story.


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It's a nice story, but all I'm saying is Bear Bryant approached near torture status in his earlier days of coaching. What is not mentioned in the following Wiki excerpt is how he treated players with serious injuries. He forced them to practice against doctors' wishes, including back injuries at risk of paralysis.


Now I am from the old school and was a Cav Scout in the Army. I also played football, basketball and baseball and went through some grueling two and three days for football, but this was beyond just "toughening" up your players. He is very fortunate his Napoleon techniques didn't kill anybody, especially from dehydration.





Home > Aggie Life

'The Junction Boys'

Made-for-television movie to debut Dec. 14

By: By Michael Crow

Issue date: 12/9/02 Section: Aggie Life


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Page 1 of 1




In the summer of 1954, legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant took his struggling Texas A&M football team to Junction, Texas for its pre-season camp. The drought-plagued town of Junction was an ideal backdrop for the infamous "Bryant hell week" that preceded the A&M football program's return to national prominence in the mid 1950s.


Of the 111 players that initially made the trip, only 35 remained after 10 days of grueling practices, according to the book, The Junction Boys. Those men who did return as members of Bryant's team led the Aggies to an undefeated season and the Southwest Conference title two years later in 1956.


The torturous week the team spent in Junction and the success that followed are depicted in Jim Dent's book, The Junction Boys. On Dec. 14 the ESPN cable network will retell Dent's story in a feature film that shares the book's title. The Junction Boys is the network's second venture into feature films and its second look at a legendary disciplinarian. ESPN's first made-for-television movie, A Season on the Brink, explored the 1986 season of former Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight.


The Junction Boys, filmed during a four-week span in Australia, pulls no punches regarding the coaching practices of "The Bear," played by Tom Berenger of Platoon and Major League.


Berenger said he has long been a sports fan and was eager to take on the role of the legendary coach.


"(Bryant) was just so interesting. He seemed to really be colorful, with his country way about him, and he was just Mr. Football," Berenger said. "I loved the story, and when I got the role, my wife's mother who lives in Alabama probably called everyone in the state."


To prepare for the part, Berenger said he studied Dent's book and consulted some of Bryant's former colleagues at the University of Alabama. Berenger and the film's cast and crew worked 12 and 13-hour days to complete filming within the given time constraints they were given. Still, he said the experience was well worth the long hours and hectic schedule.


"I don't care how exhausting it was," Berenger said, "I had a great time, and the script was so good. I thought 'you'd have to be an idiot to screw up something this interesting.'"


Much of the intrigue surrounding the story of The Junction Boys centers on Coach Bryant's no-holds-barred methods and his relentless coaching style. According to Dent, "The Bear" earned his nickname by once agreeing to wrestle a carnival bear for a dollar. Bryant was ruthless toward his players during the pre-season camp, intending to discover who the leaders on his team were.


The coach's controversial techniques included denying his players water during their workouts in Junction's 100-plus degree temperatures.


According to sportsjones.com, Bryant head-butted tackle Henry Clark after a blown assignment, leaving the player on the ground, dazed and holding a broken nose.


Dr. Arnold LeUnes, A&M professor of sports psychology, attended the University during Bryant's stay and has studied some of the coach's practices. He described Bryant as an authoritarian figure, reminiscent of a entirely different era in coaching.


"He was strict, enforcing iron discipline," LeUnes said. "At the time, a coach could get away with pretty much anything. You wouldn't find something like that today."


According to espn.com, players who elected to leave the 'boot camp' could collect bus fare from Coach Bryant for their return. Still, most of those who left were too afraid to ask for their free ticket home, finding other means of transportation. Some players ran off during the night, hitchhiking back to College Station to avoid the wrath of "The Bear."


Rob Roy Spiller, who worked for the bus station in Junction at the time, recalls regularly arriving to groups of Aggie football players seeking their freedom from Bryant's camp.


"Where would y'all like to go this morning?" Spiller would ask the players. Most often, he said one of the players would respond, "We don't care. First bus out."


Still, while Bryant ran off most of his team using various coaching methods, the success of the 1956 team and later achievements by team members offer some support for his having either created or identified leaders.


Two players from the team, Jack Pardee and Gene Stallings, went on to become coaching legends themselves, with Pardee twice named NFL Coach of the Year and Stallings winning a national collegiate championship with the University of Alabama. Dennis Goehring, one of the players Bryant tried hardest to run off, became an All-American and later established a prosperous business career in the College Station area.


"Bryant used Junction as a weeding out process," LeUnes said. "I think, somehow or another, that character that Bryant was looking for won out, because he selected some awfully good human beings with that group."


Billy Pickard, associate athletic director for the Aggie football team, was employed as a trainer during the Junction practices. Pickard said he has heard several different renditions of the Junction experience, but remembers 72 players leaving College Station for Junction and 27 returning at the end of the week.


"The number one thing to impress on people is this occurred 48 years ago," Pickard said. "We didn't have tape recorders and you didn't have video to go back and dig it out. You'll hear several different stories."


Pickard said Bryant was no-nonsense, but fair -- especially when it came to players who wanted to quit.


"(The team's center) went to climb the fence to leave, and Coach Bryant hollered 'don't go,' but he did," Pickard said. "Later, he wanted to get back on the team, but Coach wouldn't let him. He told him, 'once you quit there, you're going quit on the goal line.'"


True to legend, surviving the Junction practices was not an easy feat. For Pickard, caring for players on limited sleep was the most difficult part of the practice week.


"I think the thing that stood out most was our living conditions," he said. "In the 10 days we (trainers) were there, we seldom slept more than two or three hours a day, either from taking care of hurt players or running around doing something. The players slept a little more than that, but we were always working."


In addition to enduring "Bryant hell week," the remaining players garnered achievement in their personal lives as well, Pickard said.


"Of all the things you have to remember is the fact that those (players) that came back have all been successful at whatever they chose."

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He sure didn't seem like such a great guy in that Junction movie.


Killing kids physically isn't my idea of a great humanitarian.


Just sayin



I saw the movie thinking it was going to show me an uplifting football story and a coaching legend; but it was completely the opposite. Many of the kids in the program got the same surprise about a legend coming there and all they got was an enemy that wanted wins on a resume. I couldn't believe it! Kids were dehydrating and being rushed to the hospital. They practiced on a barron dirt field with glass and weed thorns like it was the desert. He was about as decent to those kids as those carrying out the crucifixion in the Passion of the Christ. Maybe it was just a Mel Gibson type of spin to add entertainment value. Who knows.


I highly recommend people see that movie so they can understand where you are coming from. I'll guarantee he'd be judged by alot more than by just wins and losses. There's a fine line between making a man out of someone and physical abuse and he crossed it if all that was true. There was a doctor who treated one of the kids that looked at him like he was running a Nazi concentration camp. And I used to play for an OLD school coach that was like a drill sergeant but he didn't deprive us of water or forget we were human or just KIDS.


The END of the movie finally showed a human side where he was surprised the 20 kids or so that remained in the program wanted to have a reunion with him. He said he felt bad about what a basterd he was to all of them and he regretted it every day since. You also learn he even helped one of the guys he was so tough on with a business investment later on. I hope that was mostly fiction but it makes me wonder how much.

- Tom F.

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