Thursday, January 26, 2023, marks the 40 year anniversary of the legendary Alabama head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant’s death in 1983.

Former Alabama wide receiver Keith Pugh, who played and won two national championships under Bryant from 1977-79, made a guest appearance on The Gary Harris Show (weekdays from 9-11 a.m. CST) on Tide 100.9 to reflect on the life and influence of one of the most iconic figures in the history of college athletics.

Pugh was one of the most notable receivers in Bryant’s wishbone offense during his tenure at Alabama. His 54 career receptions for 1,060 yards and six touchdowns with 19.6 yards per reception helped establish a respectable passing attack in a run-dominant era of college football.

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“We didn’t throw it very often,” Pugh explained. “I jokingly say you can always tell we were going to pass because I did a cartwheel coming out of the huddle.”

“Coach Bryant’s philosophy on passing was when you throw, three things happen and two of them are bad. He did not like to throw it a lot in the wishbone.”

Nevertheless, Bryant still had a special relationship with Pugh and his players, motivating them and coaching them to success. Pugh joked how he related to Bryant’s explanation of how he didn’t have a lot of good football players, but “they thought they were.”

The unique relationship that the players had for Bryant carried off the field as well. Pugh told another story of when players were together in the cafeteria, and how the loud room would always go dead silent when “The Bear” occasionally entered the room.

“We were just praying he didn’t sit at our table,” Pugh joked.

Joking aside, the players had a massive amount of respect for Bryant and everything that he contributed to them, not just in football but in life. Pugh told of how when he wasn’t sure about further pursuing a career in football after Alabama, Coach Bryant gave him advice and helped steer him in the right direction.

That advice? Pursue the career that his heart was leading him to pursue.

Pugh was hearing that some NFL teams were interested in him after Alabama, but he was debating pursuing a career in the ministry field. The confirmation from Bryant helped make the choice even easier for Pugh.

Pugh is just another player that was positively influenced by Paul Bryant, both on the field and off the field in life. The numerous stories and anecdotes from his legendary career prove that there will never be another man like “The Bear”, and the impact he had will never be underappreciated.

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