Southern Calls Vol. 3, March 2014
After the 1982 season, Paul William “Bear” Bryant, 69, announced his decision to retire, stating, “This is my school, my alma mater. I love it and I love my players. But in my opinion, they deserved better coaching than they have been getting from me this year.” After the last game of his career, a 21-15 victory over the University of Illinois in the Liberty Bowl, Bryant was asked what he planned to do now that he was retired. He replied, “Probably croak in a week.”
His reply proved ominous. Four weeks after making that comment, and just one day after passing a routine medical checkup, Bryant checked into Druid City Hospital in Tuscaloosa after experiencing chest pain. A day later, January 26, 1983, when being prepared for an electrocardiogram, he died after suffering a massive heart attack. On his hand at the time of his death was the only piece of jewelry he ever wore, a gold ring inscribed “Junction Boys.”
A moment of silence was held prior to Super Bowl XVII, played four days after Bryant’s passing. A month after his death, Bryant was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, by President Ronald Reagan.
He is interred at Birmingham’s Elmwood Cemetery.
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