Randy Smith: My “Bear” Bryant Story

Friday, September 20, 2013 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith

Last week, I read my old friend Roy Exum’s column about his wonderful friendship with the legendary Paul W. “Bear”  Bryant. I have read and heard that story several times and always smile fondly when I read it again. Roy and Coach Bryant were good friends who always seemed to enjoy each other’s company. I was never what you would call friends with Coach Bryant. I considered myself to be friends with both Johnny Majors and Phillip Fulmer for obvious reasons but never Coach Bryant. I interviewed him on two different occasions and the first interview was one I would like to forget. In fact, if I remember correctly, Roy Exum was on the Krystal bus that day at Creeks Bend in the summer of 1976.

I was a young, enthusiastic sports reporter for WDOD radio back then and my boss, the late Bill Nash, had gotten me an interview with Coach Bryant after his round of golf. I was terrified and likely shaking in my boots as I stepped aboard the lavish bus that Coach Bryant was using that day as he played in a celebrity golf tournament.

I walked slowly up to the booth where he was sitting. He never looked at me as I was introduced to him. He simply stared out the window, hardly noticing that I was in his presence. I turned on my tape recorder which was stocked with fresh batteries, and I started the interview. Now back then I was just 25 years old and on the short side of experience. I learned a very valuable lesson that day; never begin an interview with a serious or important question. After starting my recorder I asked, “Coach……how many more years can we expect to see you at the University of Alabama?” I knew right away that was a huge mistake. As I waited for the legendary “Bear” Bryant to unload on me with full force, I thought about getting up and running as hard as I could to get off the bus and just lie down in the road and wait to be run over.

It was quiet…..deathly quiet as Coach slowly turned and looked at me and said, ”I don’t think that’s any of your….. G*****n business. Now ask me something I give a s**t  about answering.”

I didn’t get up and run. I sat in my seat and finished the interview which actually turned out to be pretty good. I didn’t stop shaking until later that evening, when I got home and played the tape for my wife.  Years later as I think back on that day in 1976, I really wasn’t frightened of Coach Bryant; just in total and complete awe of him. I bet Roy Exum could relate to that same feeling.

A few years later, near the end of his career, Coach Bryant came back to Chattanooga to speak at a fundraising banquet for UTC Athletics. I did another interview with him, this time on television, as I was working for WDEF-TV Channel 12. I was hoping he wouldn’t remember me at all after that near-disaster in 1976. After we were finished, I shook his hand and he said, “This one was a lot better than that last one wasn’t it?”

I was smiling from ear to ear as I held on to his hand and told him….”You’re right Coach. You’re right about that.”

I have thought about my two meetings with “Bear”  Bryant a lot over the last few years. I was in awe of him, I never doubted that at all. He had as much charisma as anyone I have ever known, but the biggest thing about Coach Bryant was this: you never wanted to disappoint him. Whether you were doing an interview or playing college football for him. There are hundreds and hundreds of former players who know exactly what I’m talking about.

rsmithsports@comcast.net

---

Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Brainerd High School in Chattanooga. He is also the Head Softball Coach at Brainerd. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).


UTC Volleyball Tops Tennessee And Ole Miss

Hosting its own Spring Tournament, the Chattanooga volleyball team showed growth on the court as the Mocs defeated Tennessee and Ole Miss  on Saturday  in Maclellan Gym. The Mocs, who welcomed  Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Georgia, Dalton State, Ole Miss,  Kennesaw State, Georgia State  and Belmont, opened the tournament with a two-set win over the ... (click for more)

Florida, California Schools Win Boys DecoTurf Tennis Titles

A pair of schools from big time tennis states came to Chattanooga and won the DecoTurf Boys High School Tennis Championships this weekend.   Wiregrass Ranch (north or Tampa, Fla.) remained undefeated (18-0) and defeated Memphis University School, 5-3 in the A Division finals, while Santa Margarita (Calif.) whitewashed Jenks (Okla.), 9-0 in the finals of the B Division. ... (click for more)

Hard Freeze Predicted In The Area For Saturday Night

Temperatures are expected to drop Saturday night to 28 degrees or less. Here is the latest report from the National Weather Service:  HARD FREEZE WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM MIDNIGHT EDT /11 PM CDT/ TONIGHT TO 11 AM EDT /10 AM CDT/ SUNDAY... * EVENT... A HARD FREEZE EXPECTED WITH LOWS FROM THE TEENS NORTH TO THE UPPER 20S SOUTH LATE TONIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING. ... (click for more)

Man Charged In Shooting On Sixth Avenue Had Been Shot Himself Last Week; Police Say Incident "Part Of Gang War"

A man charged with attempted first-degree murder on Sixth Avenue Court on Thursday afternoon was shot himself earlier this month. O'Shae Kadaris Smith, 20, of 2114 E. 12th St., is also charged with reckless endangerment, aggravated assault and possessing a firearm during the commission of a crime. He was one of two people shot on Rawlings Street on March 16. Kendre Allen, ... (click for more)

Finley Stadium Needs To Grow Up - And Response

RE:  Finley Stadium Financial Picture Rosy; Beer And Alcohol Sales Approved; AstroTurf Almost Ready and City, County Pitching In $250,000 Each For New Finley Stadium AstroTurf I read a story here five days ago about a rosy future for Finley stadium. It lead me to believe that the stadium was making money and even improvements with donations.  Then we get a short ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Sunday Funnies

They say March roars in like a lion and leaves like a lamb. So as you reach for your lambs-wool sweater on this last Sunday of the month, allow me to lighten up a bit with a new edition of my Sunday Funnies. I have a delightful crowd that keeps me supplied in jokes and these are some of the best that have come my way: A WOMAN'S PERFECT BREAKFAST -- She's sitting at the table ... (click for more)