“I’d like people to remember me as a winner because I ain’t never been nothing but a winner.” This quote from Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant is spot on looking around this museum. If you are a fan of college football, you must experience the Paul W Bryant Museum on the campus of the University of Alabama. I was excited to visit this Blue Star Museum with my two oldest children. They are lucky to experience the rich traditions of Alabama football firsthand. My daughter is a junior nursing major and my son will be a freshman mechanical engineering major this fall. They are not new to cheering on the Crimson Tide; they have been doing that all their lives, as both of my parents are originally from northwest Alabama.
With such tradition comes priceless mementos. The museum holds many of these. They also tell the story of Alabama football through exhibits, art, and film. As you enter, there is a large bust of the legendary coach flanked on either side by pictures of each team that he coached. To the left, you see firsthand how far back the football tradition dates; there are uniforms from 1896 as well as a pigskin from 1894. Next are pictures and memorabilia of the Rose Bowl win in January of1926, a pivotal time in college football.
A large portion of the museum is dedicated to its namesake, Paul W Bryant. On display is his Naval uniform as well as a replica of his office, including his desk and even his famous houndstooth fedora. In the middle of the museum, there is a mini theater playing a short documentary about Coach Bryant narrated by one of college football’s greatest announcers, Keith Jackson. I loved watching the old footage. It brought back great memories of my childhood; many Saturdays were spent following the games, even if they weren’t televised.
There are trophies – a lot of trophies! Literally, every corner you turn, you discover another trophy. I hear that there are even more trophies in the museum’s storage.
Continuing around the outskirts of the museum, case after case chronicles the history of how Alabama has become a dynasty “where legends are made.” There are displays paying homage to each ‘Bama coach and several notorious players leading up to present day. There is even a case for Big Al, with the story behind the elephant mascot. Nearby is an emotional and touching case filled with pictures and items from the devastating tornado of 2011.
Last but not least are displays filled with memorabilia from the current era – the Coach Nick Saban era. My guess is they probably have enough memorabilia from this era to build a whole new wing! Since coming to Alabama in 2007, he has won four National Championships and since 2008 his teams have spent all or part of the season as number one. I loved seeing the Gatorade-soaked shirt and hat worn by Coach Saban during his first National Championship win as Bama’s head coach in 2009. And, of course, the beautiful crystal 2012 BCS National Championship trophy and rings are highlights. It amazes me what he has accomplished both on and off the field. I can’t wait to see what the future holds. Championship #17 in ‘17 has a really nice ring to it!
Lastly, there is a small gift shop tucked in the corner of the museum. It features Alabama apparel and gifts, and some unique items including a nice selection of books. And, of course, you can grab a refreshing Coca-Cola and a bag of Golden Flake potato chips (Coach Bryant’s favorites).
Thank you to the museum staff and especially Kenneth Gaddy, the director, who made us feel so welcome. He shared that approximately 100 visitors have already taken part in the Blue Star Museums opportunity this summer!
Written by: Christina Smith