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Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Where Football Coaches Walk on Water

“I told everybody you southern boys would fight. Now fight!”

Alabama Crimson Tide
Bear Bryant talks to fans as he is escorted off the field by police, circa 1980's. (Focus on Sport via Getty Images)

I will never forget walking into my dorm room for the first time at a small, Christian college just outside Raleigh, North Carolina. My roommate, a stout fella from Jasper, Alabama, was unloading his personal effects, trying to give the cramped quarters a homey feel. I watched him dig a George Foreman grill out of a duffle bag and place it on the lavatory. On the tiny flakeboard desk next to his bed, he laid a leather King James Bible as big as an old Sears catalog, held together with at least half a roll of duct tape to keep Deuteronomy from falling out. Beside it stood a picture of “Miss Sandy,” his sweet mother. Her cherubic face served as a totem, reminding him of home, and of the fiery wrath he would incur if he got up to too much foolishness. 

On the wall above the desk he hung a large portrait that stopped me in my tracks. It was an enlarged version of an Alabama postcard from 1966 of Paul “Bear” Bryant walking on water.