Young Bear Was Shy

by Steve

My grandmother, the late Fern Nutt of Fordyce, Arkansas, was Bear's first cousin. Her husband, Harry, played end with Bear on the 1930 Fordyce Redbugs football team that beat Little Rock High School (later, Central High, site of the 1957 integration crisis) for the state championship.

My grandmother saw young Paul tangle with the bear that won him his famous nickname, and she said he was so shy that he'd often cross to the other side of the street to avoid contact with people. She thought he may have been ashamed because his parents had him drive a wagon into town to sell their homegrown vegetables.

But when he began playing football, she said, everything changed. As his skills and strength on the field grew, so did his confidence, and athletics transformed him into a confident young man who became our most famous college football coach.

I met him in person only once, at my grandmother's house on Morton Street in Fordyce in the early 1970s. Paul didn't get back home too often, but he always visited my grandmother. He signed a slip of paper for me, and I walked him out to his car as he was leaving. I was 11 or 12 and big for my age, and I'll never forget how he turned to me, put his hand on my shoulder, squeezed it as if he was sizing me up, and said, "I hope you'll come play football for me at Alabama when you grow up" in that graveled voice of his.

I didn't turn out to be an athlete, and I never saw him in person again, but it was an unforgettable moment.

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Oct 04, 2009
Great Story
by: Mo

Thanks Steve, that's a great first-hand story about the great Bear Bryant. I really appreciate you sharing it with the rest of us. I love the idea that Paul was shy as a boy and found football -- which for him -- was what really made him special and even great.

May we all find that "thing" that can make each of us special and great.

Oct 05, 2009
Thanks and another quick Bear story
by: Steve

Thanks, Mo. I'm glad I happened across this site. Sometime in the 1960s, Paul and a CBS camera crew arrived in Fordyce to do a film or some sort of piece about his home town. Some of the film was shot at the general merchandise store, Kilgore Brothers, founded by my grandmother's family. I was very young and never saw the film and don't know how I'd go about trying to find it now--if it even exists.

I have one black and white photo that was taken on that day, and it shows Paul, my Uncle Deen Kilgore and Paul's old Redbug teammate and my dear grandfather (the rather unfortunately-named), Harry "Sadie" Nutt. It's one of my proudest possessions, as is the dog-eared copy of his book, "Bear," that he autographed for my grandmother.

Incidentally, the Nutt side of my family is apparently related to Houston Nutt, who now coaches Ole Miss. Unfortunately, I've never met him, but I hope to some day.

Oct 06, 2009
wondered bout that
by: Mo

I wondered if you were related to Houston Nutt as soon as I read that...

thanks again, feel free to pass anything more our way and we'll be happy to post it.

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By Mo Johnson, Copyright © 2006-2017

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