Sept. 5, 2008
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -
Bobby Smith 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. The co-captains of that team return to Tuscaloosa this weekend, forever linking the Crimson Tide’s football heritage.
Dave Sington and Bobby Smith were elected as permanent captains off his first team that posted a 5-4-1 record. A record 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 in early August for a 50th reunion celebration, which included a dinner in the Zone and speeches from former Tide assistant coach and head coach Gene Stallings and current UA 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 in the Tuscaloosa heat.
Smith matriculated to Tuscaloosa from Brewton, Ala., where he was a standout quarterback and defensive back for the Tide. After a stint in the U.S. Army, Smith became a high school football coach and later a school administrator, where he spent the final 27 years of his professional career as a middle school principal in Ft. Walton Beach, Fla.
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. Smith spent some time with RollTide.com earlier this week to reflect on the 1958 season and share his excitement of the current Crimson Tide team.
What does it mean to serve as honorary captain for the 2008 season opener?
“Well, it’s certainly a tremendous honor for me to go out and represent those teammates of mine and the coaching staff that let me serve as a co-captain. That’s always been an honor to me, a great honor, and to go back and represent them by appearing on the field, it really is an honor.”
Are there any similarities to Alabama football when you played and now?
“Coach Bryant said something I’ll never forget. He said ‘men, it’s an honor to wear that red shirt and go out there on Saturday and if you wear it’s going to mean something to you.’ When we played Clemson, and I watched the game on television, I thought we had a real great opening game. The excitement it there. The quadrangle is awesome. It means a lot to a lot of people in the state of Alabama when the Crimson Tide takes that field.”
So, what does it mean to wear that crimson jersey?
“Well, it’s such a thing of pride. I get cold chills when I hear “Yea, Alabama” and see the cheerleaders leading the squad out o the field. It’s an emotional thing. It means a lot to me. Again, I repeat myself, but having the honor of having worn that red shirt, walking on that field, my teammates giving me the honor of being co-captain. All of that means so much. I remember one time Coach Bryant gave a speech. He said ‘men, sometimes you get tired and think nobody cares, but you don’t have any idea how many people wake up this morning, referring to Saturday, with one thing on their mind and one thing only, the Crimson Tide is playing today.’”
Is the love for Crimson Tide just overwhelming?
“Well it is to me. I know college football is important to many people. Football is important, and I know our team understands that. I guess its just pride in the university. I love the band. I love the cheerleaders. I love the school. I think it’s a matter of pride. Today, for example, the university is playing football and we’re all going to support it. It is mind-boggling.”
Does anything stick out in your mind from that first meeting with Coach Bryant?
“Yes it does. It always has as long as I have lived. I am a retired educator. First of all, when he walked in that room he had a presence. Nobody had to say get quite guys. There was complete silence. He asked two questions that I never shall forget. He asked ‘boys, how many of you said your prayers last night?’ Well all looked at each other. He said ‘I want to know, raise your hands.’ Some of us raised our hands. Then he said ‘how many of you wrote your momma a note, a letter.’ Then he said ‘that’s going to change. You’re going to say your prayers every night and you’re going to write your momma every week.’ I never shall forget that. To my memory there wasn’t much about football, but things like that. What we were going to do and how we were going to take pride form wearing that red shirt.”
Do you remember any specific changes he made?
“The thing I noticed was the organization. Now, when I say this, I’m not going to criticize Coach (J.B.) Whitworth, because I played for him and liked him. Anyway, the organization was there. He put a printed schedule of our practice on the board and some of us said ‘hey guys, there is only, two hours, look here.’ We got more done in two hours than we were getting done in the previous three or four hours. He was completely organized and you never, never loafed or used any minutes unnecessarily. We were always working towards a goal. The man established confidence, that we could in fact go out there and whip somebody.
“We went to Tulane and stunk up the field. Now, I am not taking away from their game, they beat us. We came back to play Georgia Tech under Bobby Dodd and they were ranked very high. We practiced goal-line defense that whole week. When we got to Atlanta, the paper said ‘Little Tech Back Will Run ‘Bama out of Stadium.’ I think that was the game that Alabama started back, because one of those little Tech backs got the ball on the opening kickoff and three red helmets hit him. He went one way and the ball went the other. Bobby Jackson had evolved as our leading quarterback and he had us in the end zone pretty quick. So pretty quick in the game, we had them 17-0. They got to our goal line four times and they scored one time, one a fourth-down on an automatic fumble into the end zone. The running back used to fumble in the end zone when he knew he wasn’t going to make it. We had three goal-line stands and we won the game and that was a big, big game, in my opinion, on Alabama’s trail back and gave us a lot of confidence.”
What are your thoughts on Alabama’s progress with facilities and Dr. Witt’s plan for the total academic program?
“I think it’s awesome. The university has certainly grown. The athletic facilities, the huge coliseum the stadium growth, are just awesome. I think all of that growth has come about because of good leadership and pride in the university. The fact that people are interested in what is going on there, both academically and athletically.”