It Will Be Tough

Alabama pre-season practice begins Tuesday. Newcomers will be thrown in with returning players as 105 men are permitted to report. (The rest will be able to join the team with the start of classes on August 24).

In recent weeks we have provided some insight into what former Alabama football players remember about their days at Bama through excerpts from the upcoming book, "What It Means To Be Crimson Tide." And as a service to our readers (okay, some would say shameless, self-serving plug), we remind that the book will be available in mid-August, $27.95 plus tax (if applicable) and shipping and handling, with no charge for autograph by author, 1-205-345-5074.

Here is part of what one former player had to say about practice:

"I'll have to admit when I came to Alabama from White Plains, New York–about 30 miles from New York City–in the late 1930s, I thought I had made the biggest mistake a man could make. My first year was probably the toughest of my life. The heat was tough. Spring training lasted a long time. The paper mill made it hard to breathe. It seemed like there were about 100 freshmen.

"Then you saw all the monsters they had. You felt like it was going to be almost impossible to make the team because they had top-notch athletes from all over the country. You were playing against some very fine athletes in practice. I thought, ‘What have I gotten myself into?' I knew it was going to be tough, and it was.

"Every time I saw a New York play or heard a train whistle, I wanted to leave. But I couldn't. If I didn't learn anything else, I guess I learned patience. It took me four years to make the team."

The player was Don Salls, who took over as number one fullback (at 170 pounds) in 1941 when one of the men in front of him went into the service and the other one got hurt.

After graduation he earned a master's degree from Alabama and a doctorate from New York University. He went to Jacksonville State as football coach and professor and stayed there 38 years. In 1995 he published a book, "Live and Love To Be 100."

He is in the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and in 2003 was selected, along with Harry Gilmer, for the Paul W. Bryant Alumni-Athlete Award, which is given to recognize Alabama athletes who have made exceptional contributions since graduating.

In retirement, he lives in Tuscaloosa.

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