Sept. 5, 2008
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -
Dave Sington To Serve as Honorary Captain for Tulane Game
By Barry Allen
The 2008 college football season marks the 50th anniversary of Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant’s first Alabama team. The co-captains of that team return to Tuscaloosa this weekend, further bonding the Crimson Tide’s football heritage.
Dave Sington and Bobby Smith were elected as permanent captains of the 1958 team. That squad posted a 5-4-1 record, a ledger not acceptable by Alabama standards, but a far cry from the four wins the team experienced in 1955, 1956 and 1957 combined.
The 1958 team returned to campus a few weeks ago for a 50th reunion celebration, including a dinner in The Zone of Bryant-Denny Stadium that was highlighted by speeches from former Tide assistant coach and head coach Gene Stallings and current head coach Nick Saban. The team also toured the athletic facilities and had lunch in the press box at Bryant Denny Stadium while watching this year’s version of the Tide run through a 100-play scrimmage.
Sington comes from one of Alabama’s finest football families. His father, Fred, Sr., was an Alabama icon, playing football and baseball for the Tide and was named one of the football team’s all-time greats when the Team of the Century was unveiled in 1992. He later served as President of UA’s National Alumni Association and he accompanied Dr. Frank Rose to Texas to lure Bryant away from Texas A&M in 1957. Dave’s brother, Fred, Jr., was a junior in 1958 and scored the first points of the Bryant Era of Crimson Tide football.
Sington and Smith will serve as honorary captains this Saturday as the Tide opens the season against the Tulane Green Wave in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Sington spent some time with RollTide.com earlier this week to reflect on the 1958 season and share his excitement about the current Crimson Tide team.
What does it mean to serve as honorary captain for the 2008 season opener?
“Well, it’s just a real honor for me. I was kind of taken back with it when (Athletics Director) Mal (Moore) called me and asked me to do this. I think the new era kind of dawned like when we were with Coach Bryant that first year and I feel like this is the start of something really big.”
Are there any similarities between the program then and now?
“Absolutely. It’s real funny. I was talking with Tyler Love, who was in my granddaughter’s graduation class at Mountain Brook High School. I told him it reminded me of when Billy Neighbors and that group came in, of course we were already there as seniors, but when that freshman group came in and the excitement of Coach Bryant. You knew we could win and you know Coach Saban is going to win. I told him it was just like Coach Bryant told that crowd, that if you stick with him and do what he said, we’ll be playing for the national championship.”
Is it hard to believe that it has been 50 years since Coach Bryant’s first team?
“Well, it didn’t soak in until the reunion and I saw some people that I had not seen in 50 years. It’s just hard for me to believe that it has been 50 years. When you’re 20 or 21 years old your senior year, you can’t even imagine 50 years from now that we’d all be joined together and getting together for that team. I guess everyone knows it was a pretty tough spring and a pretty tough fall. We all stuck it out. I guess we can all laugh about it now, but it was not funny then.”
Who are some of your teammates you have stayed in contact with and is there a funny story you can share from your experiences?
“I can look back now and laugh at it, but wasn’t funny then. Baxter Booth, Bobby Smith, Bobby Jackson, Ken Roberts, all the seniors that pretty well stuck it out. Charlie Gray was another. My brother was a junior. Then, Billy Neighbors and his crowd came in. Of course, I knew Billy’s brother Sid. I knew him growing up in Northport.
“I guess the funniest thing that ever happened on the practice field to me was we were practicing in the fall, no it was the spring. We were running a little trap play and the guard kept missing the defensive end because the defensive end knew what was coming. Coach Bryant told us to run it again and we better block it right or he was going to kill us. That was a figure of speech, of course. Well, this boy that played guard pulled out and, of course, he didn’t make his block. Coach Bryant was over there looking for him and all of a sudden he looked up and this boy was running for the fence. They had the gate locked. There was no way to come in to the practice field and it had barbed wire on it. It was 12 feet high, I guess. This boy took it in three steps and he was over the thing and gone. I tell, you it just broke us up. No one knew what to say and everybody looked at Coach Bryant and he started laughing. He looked over at (Athletic Trainer) Jim Goosetree and told him, ‘Jim, unlock that gate before somebody gets killed’.
“There was a lot of hard work and I think that’s what they are going through now, to be real frank with you. Coach Saban is showing them how you have to go and how you got to win and I think that was part of that first group that first season. Coach Bryant was going to show us that it takes hard work to win and if you don’t work hard, you won’t win. I honestly believe that’s exactly what they are going through right now.”
On the legacy of the Sington family in Alabama football?
“The University of Alabama was the dearest thing to (Fred, Srs.) heart. He was a National Alumni Association President and had a lot of offices. For people that don’t know, he was a two-time All-American and he is in the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame.
“It was my junior year, and I called home one day, and I told my mother I wanted to talk to my father and she kind of mumbled around and told me he is not here. I said, ‘Where can I reach him’, and she said, ‘I just don’t know, but I’ll have him call you’. Well, little did I know, he and Dr. Rose had gone out to Houston to talk to Coach Bryant to come back. He had gone under an assumed name on the airplane. He and Dr. Rose. It was real funny, one of the stewardesses on the plane waiting on him and looked up and said, ‘Mr. Sington, it’s nice to have you’, and she blew his cover. So, they went to Houston to the Shamrock Hotel. They thought they had snuck him in. So when they had finished and I guess he had already decided to come. When they got ready to leave, they had cameras and TV people everywhere. It wasn’t much of secret. Everybody knew he was coming.
“Fred went to school at Alabama and he played. We all love the University of Alabama and just want to see it succeed and I think we have the right man for it to succeed.”
What are your thoughts on Coach Saban and the Crimson Tide?
“Well, I realize we beat Clemson. Like Coach Saban says, it’s just one game. I’ve been around, of course, we were in the sporting goods business for 30-40 years, and I’ve seen a lot of coaches, but I have never seen a college coach in my life recruit like Coach Saban. Now, I haven’t been with him when he is recruiting, but all I know is it looks like seven days a week, 24 hours a day, he recruits. You know he’s a great defensive coach. He’s got a great offensive coordinator now. His assistant coaches are not on his staff unless they can recruit and that’s the name of the game, recruiting.”