Roy Exum: Bear Bryant’s Summertime Letter

Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

The luckiest batch of high school seniors ever will begin to graduate this week and I envy each of them. No matter what their final grades were, their social standing, their background or their size, every one of them will begin a new adventure at a time when there are more possibilities in life than ever before. Can you imagine being 18 and starting out fresh!

While the naysayers will point to a poor economy, millions out of jobs and inner-city strife, I am a keen believer in the promise, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Yes, you have to do all it takes to get there and, yes, nothing good ever comes easy but the ones who make the right choices and stick with it are in for a whole lot of fun now that high school is over.

The other day a wonderful friend shared quite a letter with me that was written to a certain high school graduate about 40 years ago, as best we can tell. This particular boy had been a football star growing up and, as things turned out, had signed a scholarship with the University of Alabama. At the time he received this first letter from his new football coach – Bear Bryant – the prom was over, the cap-and-gown had been returned, and the summer vacation was in full swing. We can all remember that life was large that first summer out of high school. We also remember how short it lasted.

But I am also willing to bet the boy was a little apprehensive over what was next in store. It is natural to be leery and uncertain and – let’s face it -- all high school graduates, both girls and boys, worry a little. Here is what Bear Bryant wrote to an incoming freshman class:

* * *

Dear Chris:

You will be expected to report for football practice August 17. We will expect you to arrive in the afternoon and our first meal will be served that evening at the dorm.

On the 18th, you will take your physical, including the mile run, get your room and locker assignments and participate in Photographer’s Day in the afternoon. Our first practice will be on the morning of the 19th.

I am expecting you to report in top physical condition, clean-cut, smiling, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and raring to go. Also, I am expecting you to be prepared to run, hit, pitch, kick, catch, sweat, smell and enjoy it. There are no easy ways but there are ways to enjoy the journey and we must find them.

I am also expecting you to work hard, eat well, sleep well, play well, display a winning attitude at all times, be a leader and help me sell the squad on what it takes to win and enjoy the journey.

I hope you will share your problems with me whether it be at home, at the dorm, in your school work, with teammates, with coaches, with training regulations, self-discipline or even flying a kite. If you do that, I will try to help you and, if I can’t, I’ll recommend you get a job, join the Army, or join the Foreign Legion, but, in any event, to reside in another state.

Nothing’s too good for winners. I want to love you, pat you, pet you, brag on you and see you hoot, run and shout and laugh, pray, hug, kiss, and win with humility.

If we lose, I want all of us to be unhappy, no one to have any fun, and expect only what is reserved for losers but take it with dignity while planning to come back.

Please remember us to your family and make your personal plans on how you are going to reach your goal – the NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP.

Sincerely,Paul Bryant

* * *

Now, just for grins and giggles, how about looking around and trying to spot a high school senior you might know. Suppose you took a few minutes to write that new graduate a letter, telling them first how proud you are of all they’ve done to meet the requirements to graduate.You might tell them that they’ll soon find there “are no easy ways but there are ways to enjoy the journey and we must find them.” You might add you hope they will always “display a winning attitude at all times, be a leader” and if they ever need a friend to talk to that you’ll always be there for them. You know, “pet and hug” them a little bit.

Encourage them to recognize there will be some dark days and tough times but to keep their eye on the goals they hope to attain. Above every storm cloud the sun is always shining and you’ve noticed the sun comes up on a new day every 24 hours.

Aw, it’s just a thought but it sure worked for Coach Bryant. He was a genius at getting a group of boys, most who didn’t know another soul when they first arrived, to believe in each other, buy in to a common goal, and all pull in the same direction. He coached at Alabama for 25 years and won 323 times while collecting six national championships and 13 conference titles.

It all started with a letter to his high school graduates in the summer. A postage stamp will cost you 44 cents.

royexum@aol.com


Kudzu Incursion On Scenic Highway

I don't know if I am the only Lookout Mountain resident to notice that Scenic Highway is about to be one and a half lanes. Kudzu is encroaching over the guard rail and onto the road. In many places you can no longer tell where the road ends and the guard rail begins. A number of new and older drivers don't need to be guessing about where the road ends. Tommy Dickinson (click for more)

Send Your Opinions To Chattanoogan.com

We welcome your opinions at Chattanoogan.com. Email to news@chattanoogan.com . We require your real first and last name and contact information. There is no word limit, but if your article is too long you may lose your reader. Please focus more on issues than personal attacks. (click for more)

Greg Beck Asking County Commission Chairmanship; Others Seeking Post Behind The Scenes

Long time County Commissioner Greg Beck is seeking the chairmanship of the Hamilton County Commission, he said. Several other commissioners are working behind the scenes to try to get the top commission post. The job opened up after the unexpected defeat of Commission Chairman Fred Skillern in the August primary election. Larry Henry, who has held the chairmanship several ... (click for more)

Helen Burns Sharp Asks Recovery Of Legal Fees In Successful Black Creek TIF Lawsuit

Helen Burns Sharp, citizen activist who sued to try to stop a $9 million Black Creek Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and won, is seeking to have her legal expenses paid by the city and the developers. Ms. Sharp said in a court filing that her legal bills to attorney John Konvalinka are $74,427 thus far. Chancellor Frank Brown ruled in favor of Ms. Sharp, saying the Sunshine ... (click for more)

Worley-Powered Vols Clobber Utah State, 38-7, In Opener

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee, trying to snap out of the doldrums of four consecutive losing seasons, started its 2014 campaign in fine fashion Sunday night before a season opening sellout crowd of 102,445 that endured a heavy rain story 30 minutes prior to kickoff. And senior quarterback Justin Worley, who missed the final four games in 2013 after undergoing thumb surgery, was ... (click for more)

Lookouts Reach Southern League Northern Division Playoffs With Doubleheader Win Over Smokies

The Chattanooga Lookouts are now playoff bound after sweeping a double-header against the Tennessee Smokies  to clinch the Southern League North Division for the second half of the season. The first game of the double-header was backed by a masterful gem of a game thrown by the starter for the Lookouts, Steve Smith (W, 3-2). Smith dominated the Smokies' lineup from top ... (click for more)