In Search of Coach Bryant

November 19, 2012
By

Ladies and Gentlemen

The older I get the more I miss having a “father figure” to talk with

Just to get an opinion or share an idea or recall a memory of days gone past

Many of you may feel the same way

And that is why I went to Fordyce Arkansas

For those of you that may not know….

Fordyce Arkansas is the hometown of Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant

Its population isn’t much more than a few thousand people but they are fiercely proud of their town, their Fordyce High School Red Bugs Football Team and Coach Bryant.

I had never been to Fordyce before, but I wanted to go there to see the Red Bug Stadium that was renamed for Coach Bryant and to connect with the only real father figure I ever had.

Not that he and I ever had any in-depth discussions about anything….

Frankly I was scared to death of him, but I knew that he cared about me.

Because he cared about everybody around him and even those people that weren’t around him

Case in point…

After going by the “new” High School to look at the Red Bug Football Trophy case…

I learned that Coach Bryant has academic scholarships for Fordyce High School students to go to college and those scholarships have been going strong for over fifty years and are still going thanks to a trust fund that he set up many, many years ago.

I wonder how many kids and families from this little town in Arkansas have had their lives changed forever because they received a college scholarship from a man that didn’t forget where he came from?

It didn’t surprise me because he was that kind of man

After leaving the High School I went by Red Bug Stadium that was named for Coach and then went to the Dallas County Museum in downtown Fordyce to see the display they had of Coach Bryant memorabilia.

I enjoyed it all and I can’t say enough good things about how kind the people are in Fordyce.

But on this cold and sunny day I can’t tell you what I was looking for exactly

I am not sure why I came here other than to somehow connect with Coach Bryant

Maybe in some strange way just to walk where he walked and to see what he saw growing up…

But like so many other things in life, sometimes what we are searching for isn’t what we find at all

Sometimes, it’s something deeper

As I stood on the sidewalk outside the Dallas County Museum in “old” downtown Fordyce

I could have sworn I heard the creaking wheels of a wagon coming down the well worn street

I looked up and down the street and I didn’t see anything

No cars and certainly no wagon

Then it hit me

When Coach Bryant was a boy he used to ride with his mother in a wagon through here to sell vegetables to the “town folk”. His father was an invalid at the time and Coach would help his mother by selling vegetables that they grew on their modest property to make ends meet.

Loading that wagon and riding it all day till dark only to start it all over again in the morning

I could hear the teenagers mock and call Coach various names because they were poor

Dirt Poor

I could feel the frustration and the pain

But I felt something else too…..

How could a man that endured such ridicule and scorn have such compassion on those after he left?

I bet some of the very same people that called him names and used to throw rocks at the mules pulling that wagon have had relatives receive scholarships to college in Coach Bryant’s name.

Because those experiences didn’t define him it made him who he was, it drove him to work hard, to be a success and to help others

We live in a time when too many people expect the Government to “help” them

To provide for them, to take care of them

To pay for their room, board, and buy them a cell phone and the babys diapers.

Coach Bryant believed in pulling yourself up and working hard and never (ever) quitting.

His family didn’t and wouldn’t take a “hand out” from the Government even if it would have been offered at the time and would you like to know why?

Pride

You can be poor, but poverty can’t take your pride away from you unless you let it.

“Tough Times don’t last, but Tough People Do” He used to say all the time….

I am sure some people reading this will see the ramblings of someone “out of touch” with today’s society or perhaps someone looking at the past through rose colored glasses.

I will tell those naysayers what is “out of touch”

The lack of Coach Bryant toughness in our current society

That work ethic, that never (ever) quit attitude

Work hard

Sacrifice

Integrity

Moral fiber

Pride

It seems that too many people today have forgotten that even when Coach Bryant was a boy, people lived and died just like they do today. There were hungry people and there were poor people and there were rich people. The only difference is you didn’t have the Government with a bottle in people’s mouth from the cradle to the grave because they are somehow “entitled” to it.

Certainly I am not painting everyone with a broad brush here, there are still some damn tough people in this country fighting through some extraordinary circumstances every day, some of which I met in this small Arkansas town.

And not a one of them has their hand out asking “What Can the Government do for me?”

As I leave beautiful Fordyce Arkansas I find myself missing Coach even more.

I can hear his voice even now….

“Listen; does your boy know how to work? Try to teach him to work, to sacrifice and to fight. He better learn now, because he’s going to have to do it someday. I mean, some morning when you’ve been out of school twenty years and you wake up and your house has burned down and your mother is in the hospital and the kids are all sick and you’re overdrawn at the bank and your wife has run off with the drummer, what are you going to do? Throw in?”

Coach Bryant left us all with a lot more than memories of victories won and Championship trophies

A lot more….

Thanks Coach…

Your Thanksgiving Picks will be out Wednesday, so stay tuned..

RTR

THE CFB WIZARD

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