Shug Jordan and Bear Bryant: a Tale of Two Titans

November 24, 2018

The Iron Bowl is considered by many to be the greatest rivalry in all of college football. The story of the friendship behind Auburn coach Shug Jordan and Alabama coach Bear Bryant adds to the legend of the rivalry. 

 

Shug Jordan is the winningest head coach in Auburn football history. In 1982 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a head coach. He played football, baseball, and basketball at Auburn and when he stormed the beaches of Normandy he carried a copy of the Auburn Creed in his pocket. 

 

The Auburn Creed is as follows:

 

I believe that this is a practical world and that I can count only on what I earn. Therefore, I believe in work, hard work.

I believe in education, which gives me the knowledge to work wisely and trains my mind and my hands to work skillfully.

I believe in honesty and truthfulness, without which I cannot win the respect and confidence of my fellow men.

I believe in a sound mind, in a sound body and a spirit that is not afraid, and in clean sports that develop these qualities.

I believe in obedience to law because it protects the rights of all.

I believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all.

I believe in my Country, because it is a land of freedom and because it is my own home, and that I can best serve that country by "doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with my God."

And because Auburn men and women believe in these things, I believe in Auburn and love it.

-George Petrie (1943)

 

Enter Bear Bryant. Bryant played football for Alabama and returned to coach the Tide for 25 years. When he retired he held the record for the most wins ever amassed by a college football coach in history. Bryant is also in the College Football Hall of Fame and is regarded by many as the greatest to ever coach college football. Bryant also carried a poem in his pocket, a poem that he used to read to his players to inspire them. 

 

"This is the beginning of a new day. God has given me this day to use as I will. I can waste it or use it for good. What I do today is very important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever, leaving something in its place I have traded for it. I want it to be gain, not loss — good, not evil. Success, not failure in order that I shall not forget the price I paid for it."

-Heartsill Wilson

 

Shug Jordan and Bear Bryant are two coaches who have a lot in common. Both played for SEC schools, coached SEC schools, and took immense pride in leading and inspiring their players. The two coaches coached against each other from 1958-1975.

 

Jordan always did his best to prepare his Auburn squadron for their fight against Alabama. He was popularly quoted as saying before an Iron Bowl: 

 

"always remember.....Goliath was a 40-point favorite over David."

 

A popular quote that still holds true for Auburn fans, especially today as they continuously take on the underdog role against an Alabama program that has asserted and maintained total dominance in college football. 

 

Achieving victory in the Iron Bowl is a huge deal for Alabamians. It gives one half of the state bragging rights for an entire year. Beating Auburn was of the utmost importance to Bear Bryant. When discussing the importance of beating Auburn Bryant was quoted as saying:

 

 "Sure I'd like to beat Notre Dame, don't get me wrong. But nothing matters more than beating that cow college on the other side of the state."

 

The attitude of winning and pride that stems from both coaches is what heated the rivalry up in the 18 years these two coaches coached against each other. It's an attitude that is mirrored by Alabama and Auburn fans, students, and players today.  

 

Jordan's record against Bryant was 5-13 but the two held great respect for each other. Bear Bryant considered Shug Jordan one of his best friends and when Jordan was dying while battling cancer, Bryant was quoted as saying “Shug has more courage in his little finger than I’ve got in my entire body.”

 

War Eagle and Roll Tide

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