by Keith Dunnavant ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 30, 1996
Balanced and intelligent, this is the first biography of the legendary University of Alabama football coach since his death early in 1983, written by a contributor to the Birmingham Post-Herald who interviewed Bryant for his high school paper. Bryant really was a larger-than-life figure, almost literally. At 6' 3"" and 210 pounds, he wasn't much smaller than John Wayne, to whom many of players compared him. His physical size would help extricate him from a life of poverty and hard labor, making him an asset to his high school football team and leading him to an athletic scholarship at the University of Alabama. Bryant played with an intensity that overrode his occasional awkwardness. He was the kind of athlete who, despite a broken leg, would suit up and play against hated rival Tennessee. As a coach, he would encourage the same kind of dedication in his players. Bryant was the last of a kind: the coach as absolute monarch, ruler of all he surveyed from his famous tower overlooking the 'Bama practice field. Dunnavant retells all the familiar stories from Bryant's career as the winningest major-college head coach: his resignation from Maryland after the university's president ordered the return of a player he had disciplined; his fabled first season at Texas A&M, in which he ran off all but 29 prospective players with a diet of two hard practices a day in the desert heat; his battles with the press in two libel suits; his extraordinary string of successes at his alma mater. Dunnavant labors mightily to keep the book balanced. He talks about Bryant's excessive drinking, his recognition in later years that the super-tough discipline of his early days might not be applicable in the Vietnam War era, the occasional coaching mistake that cost a team a victory. But Dunnavant can't find feet of clay in this hero, nor does he look especially hard. It's just as well, because they probably aren't there.
Pub Date: Sept. 30, 1996
Page Count: 320
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996
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