Roy Exum: Bear Bryant’s Summertime Letter

Tuesday, May 8, 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


Time To Enforce School Rules - And Response

Halloween Candy

Walden Neighbors Help Launch Alderman Campaign For Thomas Gallant


I am so glad that Candy Johnson, (ex-superintendent's wife) and the Urban League, want to call for interventions and cultural competency education across the district. I don't think this will ... (click for more)

The night sky was black, the moon was pale When through the woods came a banshees wail If asleep, I wish to awake from this dream So I can escape this unearthly scream Then from across ... (click for more)

Locals may have noticed that boots are already on the ground throughout Walden to spread the word about Thomas Gallant’s candidacy for the soon-to-be-open alderman position. Sarah McKenzie, who ... (click for more)



Opinion

Time To Enforce School Rules - And Response

I am so glad that Candy Johnson, (ex-superintendent's wife) and the Urban League, want to call for interventions and cultural competency education across the district. I don't think this will increase test scores or improve discipline. Every time an 18-year-old adult student won't obey a teacher, an assistant principal and a police officer, those without any knowledge of how to ... (click for more)

Halloween Candy

The night sky was black, the moon was pale When through the woods came a banshees wail If asleep, I wish to awake from this dream So I can escape this unearthly scream Then from across the mountainside Death on a pale horse begins his ride It is no joke, it's not a game Especially if the owls have called your name I've heard stories, I've read the folklore Soon ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Man, 38, In Critical Condition After He Is Shot Multiple Times On E. 40th Street Off Wilson Road

A 38-year-old man is in critical condition after being shot multiple times on Tuesday night. The incident happened around 8 p.m. at 700 E. 48th St. just off Wilson Road. Police were advised that the victim was suffering from a life-threatening injury. Police were told this was a potential dispute between two people that turned violent. The victim was taken to a ... (click for more)

Coty Wamp Names Top Leadership Posts In DA's Office

District Attorney Coty Wamp on Tuesday announced five new leadership positions in the office of the District Attorney. The new positions include executive assistant district attorney, deputy district attorney, gang and violent crime prosecutor, chief homicide prosecutor and child sex abuse prosecutor. “These prosecutors reflect my priorities,” said DA Wamp, who took office ... (click for more)

Sports

Mocs' Ford, Person Tapped As TSWA Football Players Of The Week

Chattanooga’s Ailym Ford and Jay Person were named the Offensive and Defensive Players of the Week, respectively, by the Tennessee Sports Writers Association for their efforts in contests from September 26-October 2. Ford rushed 28 times for 101 yards and two touchdowns in the Mocs’ 24-16 victory at East Tennessee State. The Florence, S.C., native carried 18 times ... (click for more)

Dan Fleser: Bayou Weirdness Ahead For The Vols

The kickoff for Tennessee’s football game at LSU on Saturday is all wrong by bayou standard time. The Tigers typically prowl their stadium and stalk their opponents by moonlight. The atmosphere, no matter how hostile it will be for a 11 a.m. (central time) start, won’t match the decibel level of a night game, when the setting typically is fueled by a full day of . . . er, well ... (click for more)