After lettering in his sophomore (1967) and junior (1968) seasons as a member of the Ohio State football team under the tutelage of Woody Hayes, Dave Brungard transferred to Alabama in 1969. In those days freshmen were not eligible for varsity play. Brungard sat out the required season of 1969, then became Alabama's starting fullback in 1970. His teammates elected Brungard co-captin of that Crimson Tide squad.
Dave Brungard is the only man known to have lettered in football at both Ohio State and Alabama.
The Youngstown, Ohio, native played for Chaney High School where he was coached by Louis "Red" Angelo. The name Angelo may be familiar to football fans since the recent Super Bowl participant Chicago Bears' roster was assembled by General Manager Jerry Angelo, son of Coach Angelo and Brungard's lifelong friend.
Incidentally, Coach Angelo's nephew, Gary DeNiro, was a defensive lineman who also lettered at Alabama (78-80).
Narrowing his list to Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State after being nationally recruited, Brungard's decision to be a Buckeye was approved by his dad, George, a 1935 lettermen on a Big Ten championship team. As a blocking back in the single wing formation, George played against Notre Dame in a contest that at the time was called the greatest college football game.
Discussing Brungard's pass catching and running skills, Coach Angelo recalled a game against Cardinal Mooney High School whose defensive coordinator was Ron Stoops, father of Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops. Facing a third down and 39 yards from their own one yard line, Coach Angelo expected the Oklahoma 5-4 defensive formation that would be called in this situation. The offensive team overloaded the receivers on one side of the field anticipating the defense's two outside linebackers' 45 degree angle drop into the areas where a hook pass pattern might be run. Brungard's assignment was to delay a count in the backfield and then run down the middle of the field looking for a pass from quarterback Tom Ross. Ross dropped six yards back from the one yard line and lofted the ball to a wide open Brungard who sprinted 99 yards for a touchdown.
At Ohio State, Brungard played on the 1968 National Championship team that won the Rose Bowl game against the O. J. Simpson-led USC Trojans. During his two years as a running back with the Buckeyes, he had two 100-yard games. Against Illinois as a sophomore, he rushed 28 times for163 yards and one touchdown and as a junior against SMU, he rushed 14 times for 101 yards and one touchdown. He displayed his all around skills as a player both years, rushing for 776 yards on 176 attempts and scoring three touchdowns. He recorded 8 receptions for 128 yards and two touchdowns and also completed one pass of two for a seven-yard touchdown. As a junior he led the team in kickoff returns with 10 for 199 yards to bring his two year total to 13 for 242 yards.
His decision to transfer was based on playing time issues since the Buckeyes were a sophomore dominated team. Talking about his reasons for the transfer as well as the connection to Alabama, he said,"Woody had decided that I wasn't going to play there anymore. So I had tried to transfer for quite a while. I got to Alabama through a fellow who played at Alabama by the name of Frank Cicatiello. Frank initially went to Maryland before transferring to Alabama. He met Joe Namath at a high school banquet in Youngstown while in high school and subsequently at Alabama after transferring from Maryland.
"Frank came back to his alma mater, Chaney High School in Youngstown, and helped coach my high school football team. We stayed in contact with one another and Frank was in Houston at the time when he contacted the different coaches about my transfer. He talked to Coach Bryant, or Sam Bailey probably, and they said if I could get a release from Ohio State, I would be accepted at Alabama as a transfer."
When you're young and unfettered, entering a tenuous situation such as transferring to another college football program with a strong leader can breed blind optimism. Brungard said, "I really didn't have any expectations. It was really more of a thing that I finally got out of there and was hoping that I was going to some place that I could play. At that age, you have that attitude that you think you are good enough to play. Obviously, it was an interesting situation to be going to play for Coach Bryant because by that time he had built up a sizeable reputation."
Brungard clearly recognized immediately the differences in the coaching styles between Hayes and Bryant. He said, "They were probably as different as night and day. Coach Hayes was a micro manager and Coach Bryant was a macro manager. Speaking from a football stand point, Hayes was a very domineering person who redefined the term, micro manager. His belief was that no one could do anything better than he could. Coach Hayes did not delegate anything to anyone that he could do himself. He just had a feeling he could do it better.
"He was primarily interested in the offense and concentrated on coaching the backfield. All of my meetings were with Coach Hayes because I was a running back. When you went to practice, he took over and dominated the entire practice. On the other hand, Coach Bryant with his famous tower, was interested in the activities of the entire team. Coach Bryant delegated different parts of the team to assistant coaches until he felt something needed his particular attention and with his slow deliberate walk and everyone petrified, he would come down from the tower to voice his displeasure. I think it intentionally took him ten minutes to walk down the staircase. The coaches ran the practices and Coach Bryant in his tower would oversee the overall situation."
Playing time was another area where the two coaches had differing philosophy. Brungard said, "Coach Bryant's philosophy was to play a lot of people all the time so that everyone would be fresh during the game and we would win in the fourth quarter. Coach Hayes's philosophy was to play 11 from the start to finish. Once you walked in the locker room on Monday and if you were not listed as the starter at your position, you knew you weren't going to play. That made it hard on everybody up there (Ohio State) because a lot of kids didn't get to play who should have played. You have better team moral if more people are playing, and not just during blow outs at the end of the game."
Although both coaches had very strong personalities, the divergence was evident by their on and off the field behavior observed by Brungard. "Coach Hayes had a split personality. When it came to football, he would be so enthralled with the situation, you almost didn't recognize him. He would rant and rave on the football field. His personality away from football was the most congenial, talkative, pleasant person that you would want to be around which benefited him when he was recruiting and speaking to the prospect's parents. He was such a friendly, outgoing person that he could talk to you about anything. He probably did about 80 per cent of the recruiting himself.
"If you met both of them (Bryantand Hayes) for the first time at a cocktail party, Coach Bryant would be very polite and probably not engage in a lot of conversation. I don't think Coach Bryant enjoyed the public limelight as much as people thought he did. Coach Hayes, on the other hand, would probably know your mother, father, grandparents, brothers and sisters within five minutes. The grandfatherly personality endeared him (Hayes) to the public. They were two distinctively different types of personalities."
Each coach had a different approach to the way he ran his program according to Brungard, "Coach Hayes had a very rigid schedule and an idea on how things would operate," Brungard said. "It would never change. You practiced at the same time of day, the same drill for the same amount of time. Every Monday practice was the same as were the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday practices and for the same length of time. Coach Bryant's practices were highly organized with periods where you would do drills for twenty minutes. The manager was in charge of the schedule to blow the whistle to change to the next drill. Practices were a lot longer in Tuscaloosa. There was more time spent with football at Alabama. You lived in a dormitory at Bryant Hall where at Ohio State as well as the rest of the Big Ten, there were no athletics dormitories. So you just lived on campus at a regular dormitory. We had more meeting time in Tuscaloosa. We had a meeting everyday at 12:40 p.m. during the season. No one could have a class in the afternoon. You knew to be at the meeting at 12:30, because that's when they locked the doors. Coach Bryant conducted the meeting and it was about things in general concerning the team and about the preparation for that week's opponent. They usually ran about 20 to 30 minutes and afterwards you would break up for position meetings." Most former Bama players have a defining moment in their careers where they are challenged by Coach Bryant. Brungard described such a day during spring practice. "I guess you could say it was a test," Brungard said. "We were in spring practice and most of the time we would scrimmage at the end of the day for about 45 minutes. That day I carried the ball on every play during the scrimmage after having already practiced for two or two and a half hours. Prior to the scrimmage being over, we had been running these plays for quite a while. He came out of the tower and I guess it wasn't going great and he said, "Y'all are going to stay here until you score." So we finally got a drive and we scored.
"Evidently, as would happen on occasion, he wasn't real pleased with everything and he said to everybody that the scrimmage is over but you get over here and you're going to run sprints. He never could pronounce my name correctly. He looked at me and said, "Bumgardner", you can go in, meaning I was excused from running the sprints. The next day in the paper someone must have asked him about me and he said something to the affect, ‘I believe he's a player.' That's probably the compliment that I've learned over the years that when Coach Bryant said you're a player, he thinks you can play and you've passed the test. So I believe that was my day to be tested."
For many years, stories have circulated alleging how Coach Bryant escorted USC fullback, Sam Cunningham, to the Alabama locker room after the defeat by the Trojans to illustrate a "real" football player to his team. For the record, Brungard said the incident never occurred.
There was an interesting Sunday evening assembly of the team after that USC contest recalled by Brungard that clearly described one of Coach Bryant's methods of resolving game day deficiencies. "After the infamous Southern Cal game (1970), where we had gotten beat (42-21), we had a Sunday evening meeting. I think we were going to play Virginia Tech the next Saturday night. Coach Bryant came into the meeting and he obviously wasn't in a very good mood. He just looked at everybody and said, ‘If y'all don't win this damn game Saturday night, we're starting Junction Sunday morning at 5:30 a.m. I don't care who doesn't like it. And if you coaches don't like it, I'll run your asses off first.' John David Crow was the backfield coach. He had gone through Junction at Texas A&M and later won the Heisman Trophy. He was sitting next to me and he said, "Nope; not doing that again.'
"I think that was a telling moment about Coach Bryant. He didn't go through long tirades and rants like other people. He just simply said that was the way it was going to be. I don't think anybody doubted his word. When he said it, that was fact. Everybody could go about their business accordingly. You could bet that if we lost that game, we would have been up next Sunday morning for practice at 5:30 a.m. I think that was an attitude that was part of the program in Tuscaloosa. When he would refer to things that had gone on in the past such as big name player breaking a rule (Joe Namath or Kenny Stabler), you knew he didn't care who you were and discipline would be applied. It put the fear of God into everyone in that room."
One moment of levity between Brungard and Coach Bryant occurred on a Monday practice after being shutout by Tennessee in Knoxville. "We had gone up to Tennessee that year and had gotten beat 24-0. I think Hunter (Scott) had thrown 5 interceptions in the game (8 total team interceptions and one fumble). I think if you look back at the stat sheet, I was the leading tackler. I have laughed at that for years and have told people I may hold a Neyland Stadium record if not an NCAA record for most tackles in a game by an offensive player. So Monday, we're getting ready for practice and as you know Coach Bryant had a strong feeling for the Tennessee game. The last person you want to see on that Monday practice is Coach Bryant because he was mad about the loss. So I'm going out to practice trying to search out where he might be because he had already gone out to the practice field and I hear Coach Bryant say, ‘Bumgardner!' I'm thinking, oh God, what does he want from me? So I went over to him and he put his arm on my shoulder. He said, ‘I was watching that game film yesterday.' And I'm thinking nothing good is going to come from this conversation. Coach said, ‘During specialty periods, I think you should go down and work with the defensive backs. You need some work on your form tackling.' And then he started laughing. You never saw Coach Bryant laugh much at practice. I thought that was an interesting moment."
Another humorous moment for Brungard was his introduction to the words "gee" and ‘haw" to delineate between right and left in assigning the direction of the offensive plays. He said one of the coaches explained to him that was the way to direct a mule and Brungard remarked, "The mule. What mule? I had no earthly idea what they were talking about at the time. We had a language problem." Of course he soon learned that the derivation of those terms stem from Coach Bryant's upbringing in Arkansas and the use of mules to plow the fields and pull the wagon to market.
One of the better moments for Brungard as a member of the football team occurred in a meeting with the backfield coach at Alabama. He said," John David Crow was the backfield coach and we had a pretty good relationship. We could kid around a little bit and have some fun playing. One of our first meetings, he told the running backs, ‘No mental mistakes, especially in your blocking assignments, no penalties, no fumbles, and when you get the ball, all we are going to ask of you is to be closer to the goal line when you're finished than when you started. The rest of it you're on your own.' The light came on again for me at Alabama. At Ohio State, Coach Hayes would not only design the play, but you when you got the ball everything was calculated, two steps to the right and three steps to the left. Running with the ball is more on instinct than by design."
Alabama's social structure presented a change for the transplanted Midwesterner. "I had a great time when I was there. The biggest change for me was the dating situation. In Columbus, at that age, girls would go out and guys would go out and you could meet a lot of people. In Tuscaloosa, everybody had a date for everything. Girls would have a date for every football game in the fall. They would be booked in August. That was a big change. The social evolution was a little different in the South than in the Midwest."
Even though he only played one year at Alabama, he was elected co-captain of the 1970 team. Brungard rushed for 418 yards on 73 attempts, scoring four touchdowns and led the SEC with a 5.7 yard per carry average. He also had 20 receptions for 201 yards and one touchdown in addition to returning 14 kickoffs for 288 yards. Wearing the crimson and white still remains a source of pride for Brungard.
"I'm real proud of being elected co-captain of the 1970 team," he said. "It was quite a thrill. You feel proud that you were allowed to be part of it when you think of all the history and tradition of the program. Just being around Coach Bryant to see how he coached and how he operated and handled things. Seeing that legacy grow through the years makes it more special. I think the passion the people have for that school is incredible. I've told people over the years that usually the Michigan-Ohio State game is considered the number one ranked rivalry maybe based on the shear number of people and the schools being so big. But the intensity of the in-state rivalry between Alabama and Auburn is much greater. The proximity of the rivalry makes it much more intense than people from outside the state would recognize."
As a person who experienced playing against Michigan in Ann Arbor and Columbus as well as different stadiums across the country and in the Rose Bowl game, Brungard expressed his belief that, "The Auburn game played at Legion Field in Birmingham, where the tickets were evenly divided between the two schools, was the most electrifying atmosphere I've ever experienced in my life."
He also recalled the days living in Bryant Hall with fondness. "We were treated very well living in Bryant Hall. The food was great as well as the facility. There was a special training room table off from the main dining hall. Coach Bryant never missed an opportunity to reward you for doing well. At the evening meal, each Monday during the season and spring practice, names were posted with those who graded out well ate at tables with white table cloths, waiters and better food. Everybody else had to go through the line. We always kidded that they had leftovers from lunch. He didn't miss a trick at the psychology behind a situation."
Brungard is retired, and remarried, living with his wife, Margaret, in Panama City Beach, Florida after spending his adult life in Birmingham in the insurance business. He has two married daughters, Julie (Alabama graduate) who lives in Nashville with two children and Kristin (Auburn graduate) who resides in Birmingham with one child.
Every year on the first Wednesday in February, young men realize their athletic dream when they take pen to hand to sign a letter of intent to attend a university and hopefully forge an everlasting relationship with their school and coach. Dave Brungard's unique experience united him with two big time football programs led by two legendary coaches which produced a lifetime of memorable moments.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Arnold P. Steadham covers athletics for ‘BAMA Magazine and BamaMag.com, concentrating on former Crimson Tide athletes.