"The pro game's a great game, but I certainly prefer the college game. There's more diversity to it, more room for error. The big difference now, of course, is that we run the quarterback. A good run is still the most exciting play in football, and you see more good running attacks in college football. [With the Wishbone, Alabama averaged 324 yards rushing a game last fall; the Miami Dolphins, leading rushing team in the NFL, averaged 173.] The big thing the pros have going for them is longevity. We had Johnny Musso for three seasons. Miami fans could be watching Kiick and Csonka for 10 years."
Do you learn anything from the pros?
"I learn from everybody. Pros, colleges, high schools. I been watching those Canadian games on television lately, and I'm beginning to think I like that 12-man offense; I think maybe we ought to consider it. It'd be interesting to see a 12-man offense against an 11-man defense. Except I doubt I could get anybody to coach the defense.
"But to answer your question. You're darn right I learn, and every time I'm around my ex-players—Namath, Perkins, Blanda—I'm quizzing 'em, wanting to know what's going on. I get Namath up on that blackboard every time he comes around to tell me about this defense or that one."
You don't talk like a man contemplating imminent retirement.
"I don't have any reason to retire, none at all. Besides [smiling] I gotta get out of debt first. [Bryant has part ownership in a meat-packing firm that does a $50 million business a year, a yarn-treating firm that does even better, a Volkswagen distributorship and has always been big in the stock market; his university salary, which he had insisted be kept at dean's level until he found out this year that his retirement benefit would only amount to $7,200 a year, is $27,000 annually.] The trouble is I don't have any cash coming in. It's all tied up."
How, ultimately, will it be determined, the climax of the Bryant career? Will they have to ask you to quit like they did Adolph Rupp?
"I'm going to make that decision. No one else, I won't take any abuse from anybody, you can count on that. But as long as I'm getting those chills up my back, as long as I feel I'm contributing, know I'm contributing, I'll be around."
How will you know for sure you're contributing?
"By winning. That's the only thing. There's nothing else."