by Travis Normand
October 19, 2016
[If this post reads like a Facebook fan posting, that is because it is. I originally posted this on Facebook as a fun informational type of fan post. However, due to the response I got, I figured I would share it here as well. I have modified it slightly from the original Facebook post.]
In honor of this weekend’s game between No. 6 Texas A&M and No. 1 Alabama, I am posting some random facts that connect the two schools together. Plus, I made a similar post before the A&M vs. Tennessee game, and we saw how that ended up.
One of the most obvious connections between Texas A&M and Alabama is that of famed Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant who was the head football coach at Texas A&M from 1954 to 1957. Bryant attended Alabama where he played football from 1933 to 1935.
Bryant’s 1954 season was his first at A&M. He started the ’54 season with a training camp in Junction, Texas. The camp was extremely tough and the players from that camp were given the nickname of the “Junction Boys.” Bryant’s first A&M squad finished 1-9 in 1954, while his 1956 squad won the Southwest Conference (SWC) Championship.
In 1957, Texas A&M running back John David Crow won the Heisman Trophy and became the first and only player to win the award while playing for coach Bryant. John David Crow would end up coaching at Alabama from 1969 to 1971 under Bear Bryant before returning to A&M as an athletic director.
At the end of the 1957 season, Bryant left A&M to become the head coach at Alabama. Bryant’s final game at A&M was a loss in the 1957 Gator Bowl to Tennessee.
A&M and Alabama first met on the gridiron at the end of the 1941 season. The Aggies were SWC champions but lost to Alabama, 29-21 in the Cotton Bowl.
The Aggies and Crimson Tide would not play again until the January 1968 Cotton Bowl (at the end of the 1967 season). The Aggies were SWC champions again and were able to even the series with Alabama at 1-1.
The 1968 Cotton Bowl featured a significant connection between the schools, other than the Aggie victory. Bear Bryant was the head coach of Alabama, while Gene Stallings was the head coach of A&M. Stallings had been a player at A&M under coach Bryant and was one of the “Junction Boys.” After playing football at A&M, Stallings had been a defensive assistant under Bryant at Alabama from 1958-1964. However, in 1965 Stallings returned to A&M as head coach of the Aggies, where he eventually defeated his mentor in the 1968 Cotton Bowl.
At the conclusion of the game, Stallings’ Aggies had defeated Bryant’s Crimson Tide 20-16. The coaches met at mid-field, and in what can be described as a truly proud moment, Bryant hoisted Stallings onto his shoulder and carried him off the field.
Stallings later returned to Alabama as head coach in 1990 and won the first SEC championship game (and thus an SEC championship), as well as a National Championship, in 1992. In doing so, Stallings became the second member of Texas A&M’s Association of Former Students to win a conference and national title at a school that is currently a member of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) (Robert Neyland was the first at Tennessee).
Jackie Sherrill played football at Alabama under Bear Bryant (and Gene Stallings) from 1962 to 1965. During his time as a player at Alabama, Sherrill was a part of two national titles.
In 1982 Sherrill was hired as the next head football coach at Texas A&M. Sherrill won three consecutive SWC titles in 1985, ‘86, and ‘87; and won three straight Cotton Bowls as well. Sherrill made his alma mater (Alabama) especially proud during the 1986 Cotton Bowl (at the end of the 1985 season) when his Texas Aggies defeated Alabama’s rival, Auburn (along with Auburn’s Heisman Trophy winner, Bo Jackson). Sherrill and A&M had opened that 1985 season with a loss to Alabama, in only the third matchup between the two schools.
Texas A&M’s third and fourth meetings with Alabama came under Sherrill’s term as head coach. Sherrill faced off against his alma mater to open the 1985 season (as stated above) and again in 1988, losing both matchups.
While at A&M, Sherrill, an Alabama alumnus, created the 12th Man kickoff squad, an Aggie football tradition that still exists today (in extremely modified form).
A&M and Alabama met for a fifth time in 2012 when a Kevin Sumlin and Johnny Manziel led Aggie team upset the No. 1 Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa; giving the Aggies their second victory in the series that Alabama currently leads 6-2. Manziel went on to win the Heisman Trophy that season and the Aggies finished the year 11-2, with a victory over Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. Oklahoma had a freshman red-shirt QB by the name of Trevor Knight, who is now currently the 2016 starting QB for Texas A&M. Knight earned the starting QB job at Oklahoma the very next season (2013) and defeated the Crimson Tide in the January 2014 Sugar Bowl.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one final connection between the schools. Dennis Franchione was Alabama’s head coach from 2001 to 2002 until Texas A&M “stole” him away and made him the head coach of the Aggies from 2003 to 2007. Franchione’s 2002 Crimson Tide football team lost to then ranked No. 2 Oklahoma in the second game of their season. However, later that same season, Oklahoma was ranked No. 1 and traveled to College Station where Texas A&M and head coach R.C. Slocum (along with offensive coordinator Kevin Sumlin) upset the Sooners 30-26. R.C. Slocum was fired (forced to resign) less than two months later.
One other random connection that is much more tenuous:
On January 1, 1934 Alabama defeated Stanford in the Rose Bowl. Bear Bryant was a player on this Alabama team and Stanford’s coach was Claude E. Thornhill. Thornhill had coached with former Aggie head football coach Charlie Moran on the 1921 Centre College team which lost to Dana X. Bible’s Texas Aggies in the January 1922 Dixie Classic.