I think the boys respect you more when you show them you're willing to sacrifice as much as you want them to I remember back when Pat James was playing for us at Kentucky and we were practicing down there at the Millersburg Military Academy. That was the first of our boot camps. The boys called it Hell Hollow. Anyway, I had a rule about being late for practice. You can't bend the rules for anybody, and one day Pat showed up late. When practice was over, I said, "Wait a minute, Pat. While you were dillydallying getting to work today we had a kangaroo court and decided your punishment would be to go around and cover up all that mess out there." We were in a cow pasture, and it was a formidable mess, too. He did. Well, the next day the trainer forgot to wake me or something, because I got there 20 minutes late, and when we headed in after practice Pat says, "Uh, just a minute please, Coach Bryant. We had another kangaroo court while you were sleeping this morning. We decided your punishment would be to dig up all that mess, load it up and cart it off." I was out there two hours getting it done.
Well, you get older, and you're bound to do some things differently. Back then I probably beat our teams more than the opposition did. I remember how impetuous I was in 1950, how I was still seething after that Santa Clara loss, and we got up to that Orange Bowl banquet and Len Casanova got up and made a nice generous speech—he'd won, of course—and then I got up and said, "I'm a win man myself. I don't go for place or show," and sat down. That was a stupid thing.
The thing is, if I had some of those teams I overworked now I might be able to get more out of them, or do it with a lot less punishment. I know one thing we've changed almost completely. It used to be I'd give that third-or fourth-team boy a whole lot of work, yell at him and tell him he'd been on the gravy train three years and it was time he gave the university a return on its investment; you know, make him suck up his guts and do something or pack up. My idea last spring was to encourage that kid to stay around, not work him as much, because he's not going to play this year anyway, and if he doesn't get discouraged he might mature and wind up being a good player in a couple of years.
Certainly after 21 years of coaching you should know a little more about pace. But you're never sure. Some of those boys we've got now don't know what it's like to be behind, to have to win in the fourth quarter when it's tough. And if you let them graduate without learning that you've done them an injustice, because they're sure going to run into it in life. Coming from behind is a great lesson. I remember we were behind Georgia Tech 15-0 at the half in 1960, and our team came back and beat them 16-15. At Texas A&M in 1955 Rice had us 12-0 with three minutes and 27 seconds to play. And they had the ball. With a minute and seven seconds to play, we had them 20-12, and we had the ball on their four-yard line. That's what I call sucking up your guts.
It's been a long time since I called a team out of the showers and back onto the field, like I did that time with John Crow when I said, "O.K., let's do it right." We've been passing a lot, too, with quarterbacks like Namath and Sloan, and that means a lot of backing off and rubbing bellies, trying to pass-protect, which isn't the same as really knocking them out of there like you do with a ball-control team.
I take that back. We did have a little of the old style last year after we lost to Georgia in the first game. In the following week we weren't getting anything done, so I called a scrimmage. It was still no good, so I said, "That's all, gentlemen," and when they started to leave added, "but be on the field at 6 o'clock tomorrow morning, because we're going to get this thing done." I said, "You're here to go to school, to get an education, but you're also here to play football. It works both ways. You promised to give your best. Now, if you don't like this, go on home. Tomorrow morning you're going to give your best or you're going to quit."
Well, I didn't even tell the coaches whether there would be a meeting or not, but I knew I must have shook them up, too, because Dude Hennessey slept the whole night in the coaches' office. We came out there in the morning at 6 o'clock and, boy, I was praying we'd do well and nobody would get hurt. I flipped that ball out there, and they liked to knock the ends out of the stadium. Weren't out there more than 15 minutes. And I said, "Well, wasn't that fun?" and they all said yes. "Wasn't it ridiculous yesterday? You got to know how stupid it was to come out here and wallow around when you can do it like this and have people compliment you. You can have some fun, and then we can win." If we'd gotten somebody hurt I'd have died, but we didn't. And of course we didn't lose another game all year and beat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl 39-28 for the national championship.
Well, that's the situation with a team. Individually it's a whole lot different, and you have to learn what makes this or that Sammy run. For one it's a pat on the back, for another it's eating him out, for still another it's a fatherly talk, or something else. I know I've sure missed on a lot of them. Ken Hall down at Texas A&M, a 200-pound halfback, ran the 100 in 9.7, probably the most sought-after player in the history of football, a hundred schools after him. He never did start a game for us, and he finally wound up leaving. Well, it's easy to say he did this or that, but what about me? My job was to get him to play, and he didn't. So there's no doubt in my mind that I failed. I know this, if we had had Ken Hall in 1957 we'd have won the national championship. We were 166 points ahead in the poll with two games to go, and we lost those, 7-6 to Rice and 9-7 to Texas. You don't think Hall was worth three points to us?
I don't know whether Hall got anything, because he signed before we got to A&M. He scored 395 points one year in high school—49 in one game. I'll never forget how he quit. We had played Baylor in the bloodiest football game I'd ever seen, and Jack Pardee had been hurt. We started one boy, then we put Hall in there, and he broke out and came close to running for a touchdown. He did some things well, and he had me sold, and that night I told my coaches sitting around the hotel in Waco that nobody was going to beat us now because we had Hall in there.
Monday he didn't show up for practice. That night I got home, and there he was waiting for me. He cried and carried on and said he'd do anything to come back. O.K. Next day he didn't show up again. I went home and he was there, and he asked me again to take him back. I said, "Well, Ken, yesterday would have been all right, but now I gotta do something, give you some kind of discipline. See me in my office tomorrow." The next day he still didn't show up. John Crow wanted me to let him talk to Ken. But I was too hollow-headed to let Crow get him back.