Remembering No. 4

On the Fourth of July, it's not difficult to remember an exciting Number 4 for the Crimson Tide. Even in the wishbone years that marked the last half of Coach Paul Bryant's Alabama career, Bama managed to have excellent wide receivers.

The Alabama wishbone was far more sophisticated than that of other schools. Even though Coach Bryant "borrowed" the offense from Texas and also looked at what Oklahoma was doing with the full house backfield set, Bama was far more effective in the passing game than other wishbone teams. (Mal Moore was the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator as Alabama set NCAA records for passing yards per attempt.)

It's natural to think of guys like Wayne Wheeler and Ozzie Newsome as big-time wishbone receivers. But a little man was one of the crowd favorites. And came to be one of Coach Bryant's favorites.

Joey Jones remembered that his Alabama football career did not get off to a great start with Coach Bryant publicly complaining that Jones was too small a target for the quarterbacks. But the Tide coach changed his mind.

In a recent interview Jones said, "But my sophomore year a bunch of receivers got hurt, and he pretty much had to start me. As luck would have it, I scored a touchdown and had a pretty good game. The next week we played Kentucky and I had another good game and also started returning punts. The following Monday, Coach Bryant told me not to dress out. He said I had been in a couple of physical games and was beaten up. I wasn't hurt, but it was his way of telling me I had finally made it. He winked at me and told me to sit out practice. My confidence meter was sky high after that."

Joey Jones has gone on to be one of the more successful high school football coaches in Alabama. He is head coach at Mountain Brook in Birmingham.

Now, could you see the shameless plug coming? Here it is!

You can read about Joey Jones and dozens of other former players who tell stories of being recruited, practicing, playing, and their lives in "What It Means To Be Crimson Tide," available in August. The book, over 300 pages in hard-cover and oversized format, includes stories and photographs on players who played from the early 1930s through last season. There is also a foreword by Gene Stallings revealing much of his career and how it was affected by Alabama and Coach Bryant.

"What It Means To Be Crimson Tide" can be ordered by VISA or MasterCard by calling 1-205-345-5074. It is $27.95 plus tax (if applicable) and shipping and handling. If you would like, author Kirk McNair will autograph the book as you specify at no additional charge.


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