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).


Jane Webb Is A Fun-Loving Runner At Heart

Jane Webb isn’t one of those people who started running when she was a kid, but she loves the benefits since she restarted her running career about four years ago. She’s all about being active and doing things that are good for you,   but long-distance running never really captured her attention and she’s found that she can receive the same payoff by covering ... (click for more)

Dalton Golf Team Wins All-Academic Award

The Golf Coaches Association of America announced Wednesday (July 30) that the Dalton State men’s golf team is All-Academic for 2014. The eight NAIA teams receiving the honor all had a 3.0 or better Grade Point Average. “This is a great indication of what these guys achieved over the first year,” Roadrunner Director of Golf Ben rickett said Wednesday. “They did a very good ... (click for more)

House Approves Expansion Of Chattanooga Veterans Affairs Clinic

The House of Representatives passed legislation Wednesday to authorize funding for a new lease and expanded Veterans Affairs clinic in Chattanooga. This veterans’ package has been approved by the House and Senate Conference Committee.  Rep. Chuck Fleischmann said, “I am proud to announce the legislation passed this afternoon will fund a new lease for a multi-specialty ... (click for more)

Cleveland City Council To Hold Special Meeting On Naming New City Judge

The Cleveland City Council will hold a special called meeting next Monday to consider an interim appointment of a city judge. It will be at 11:45 a.m. at the City Council’s regular meeting place in the Cleveland Municipal Building, 190 Church Street, NE. The council will also establish the process for application for city judge. Longtime City Judge Bill Moss died July ... (click for more)

Curtis Adams: Beck, Mackey Should Be Considered For County Commission Leadership

Just think about this;  a person highly qualified applying for a job.  As he is just about finished filling out his papers for his interview, he sees at the bottom there is a place for him to check Democrat or Republican.  He would think, “if I mark the wrong one I may not get the job.” Being a real leader requires honesty, integrity, and, most importantly, fairness. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Scottsboro’s Pat Trammell

I got a warm feeling Tuesday when it was announced Pat Trammell will be among those in the inaugural class of the Jackson County (Ala.) Sports Hall of Fame. When the august group is enshrined at Scottsboro’s Goose Pond Civic Center on Nov. 1, most folks won’t even know who Pat Trammell was but I knew all about him in my very first year as a fledgling sports writer back in 1967 and, ... (click for more)