By Greg Gulas
While Paul “Bear” Bryant is easily recognized as the coach who guided Alabama to six national football championships, his time spent at the Maryland, Kentucky and Texas A&M remain equally special to his former players.
For the nearly 50 UK players, wives and friends who are gathering tonight at the Hilton Suites Hotel in Lexington, Ky., it will mark a seminal moment when all will have the opportunity to tell tales of the man who helped put the Wildcats on the national map.
Not only will former Ursuline High and UK All-American Neil Lowry once again serve as emcee, but the Canfield resident has also been chosen as this year’s guest speaker.
“I am truly honored to have been selected as the one to address the group this year,” said Lowry. “Coach Bryant was a tough but fair coach; someone who was stern and demanding and a disciplinarian who knew not only how to win, but how to get the most out of his players.
“He had a way of taking a star or back-up, maximizing his effort and then convincing him that he could play at the next level,” Lowry said.
Lowry played three years for Bryant and as a senior served as team captain the last five games to earn to UPI All-American honorable mention.
Highlights of his senior campaign included playing a major part in the Wildcats’ 19-7 win over Vanderbilt, and a game that saw him block a punt and recover a fumble during their 13-6 upset of Georgia Tech.
He also helped UK defeat LSU, 7-6 in weather that was best described as challenging, later earning placement on a number of all-opponent squads.
It was under Bryant’s watch that the Wildcats made their first bowl appearance and won first ever Southeastern Conference title.
“Coach Bryant was always there for you, doing many things under the radar for his players,” said Lowry. “During my freshman year we had 100 student-athletes hoping to make the team.
“Only seven of those players eventually stuck it out and graduated so you can see that if you survived Coach Bryant’s grueling training, then you were more than prepared for the classroom and quite frankly, life’s lessons.”
Lowry, former LSU coach Charlie McClendon, Howard Schnellenberger (former Miami Hurricanes coach), Jerry Claiborne (former Maryland, Virginia Tech and UK coach) and former AFL quarterback Babe Parilli have all remained good friends since their college days in Lexington.
“Coach Bryant often said when wealth is lost, nothing is lost. When health is lost, something is lost. But when character is lost, all is lost,” said Lowry.
“We all felt that we had better keep our character intact so as not to disappoint the coach,” Lowry said.