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Bryant, Bearlocked

(11 September 1913–26 January 1983)
  • John M. Carroll

Extract

Bryant, Bear (11 September 1913–26 January 1983), football coach, was born Paul William Bryant in Moro Bottom, Arkansas, the son of Wilson Monroe Bryant and Ida Kilgore, truck farmers. The eleventh of twelve children, Bryant worked hard as a boy to contribute to the family’s meager income. As a teenager, he is said to have accepted a challenge to wrestle a bear at a traveling carnival show in nearby Fordyce in order to collect the one-dollar-a-minute prize money. Bryant later claimed that he easily wrestled the skinny bear to the floor, but the promoters left town before he could collect his money. All he got out of the experience, he said, was the nickname “Bear,” which he retained all his life. Bryant, who at age sixteen was 6′ 3″, 190 pounds, and still growing, was a star athlete at Fordyce High School and played tackle on the 1929 and 1930 state championship football teams....

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