Everyone who was around on January 26, 1983 remembers where they were when they heard about Paul "Bear" Bryant's passing.

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The legendary Bryant had already retired from 25 years as head coach of Alabama's football team. He had won a then-record 323 games in his stops at Maryland, Kentucky, Texas A&M and Alabama.

He had taken an Alabama football program that had become a laughingstock and turned it into someone people hated to play.

People were already sad that Bryant had retired at age 69. He always told people that if/when he retired from coaching, he wouldn't be long for this earth, and sadly, Bryant was right.

He died less than 30 days after coaching his final game, a win over Illinois in Memphis at the Liberty Bowl in December of 1982.

Hard to believe it's been 41 years since Bryant passed away at DCH.

Friday morning on Tide 100.9 and 1230 AM WTBC we featured two people who worked for Bryant, and both shared precious memories.

Colin "Big C" MacGuire served as a student football manager under Bryant for two national championship teams in 1978 and 1979.

He recalled being surprised one day when Bryant pulled up alongside him and offered a ride in a golf cart.

"I told him, 'No sir,'" MacGuire remembered. "I don't know what I was thinking."

Kirk McNair was in UA Sports Information during much of Bryant's tenure. He scheduled interviews for the coach with journalists nationwide.

"He told me always be organized and always have a plan," McNair remembered, adding that to this day he tries to incorporate those two things into his daily life. McNair founded BAMA Magazine using those principals and is now covering Alabama football and basketball for 247.

Bryant was a tough guy as both a player and coach. The story of him playing vs. Tennessee, a team he despised until the day he died, with a broken leg is the stuff of legend, except it's true. Bryant was THAT tough.

Alabama football has 18 national titles and six of those came under the leadership of Bryant. There have been other great football coaches in Tuscaloosa. Wallace Wade and Frank Thomas before Bryant. Gene Stallings and Nick Saban after his passing.

That said, the Bryant era at Alabama, and even at his previous stops, was something special.

Anyone around during those days will tell you the same thing.

 

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