Coaches' Wives Are Part Of Team

Coaches wives are much like the players who surround their husbands. Some are content to sit on the bench, stay in the background, and just go along for the ride. Others are dedicated partners who help their spouses bring players in and make them part of the family.

Mary Harmon Bryant was one of the jewels among sports wives, and it would be hard to imagine former Alabama Football Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant attaining all he did without her.

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She was the jewel of his eye and a surrogate mother to thousands of young men. She visited with parents of potential recruits and assured their mothers that she would help look after them and won over many fence-sitting recruits.

Mary looked up those young men as her boys, too, and like a mother often times had to play the role of mediator between a player in trouble and his angry coach.

Joe Namath recounted such a time when he was in the doghouse with Coach Bryant and he went to "Momma Mary" to help him with Bear. He came home early and Mary had to hide Joe in the basement so Coach Bryant would be none the wiser.

She had a way of juggling her duties of wife and momma that seemed to make things work out. The boys always knew they had a shoulder to cry on with Mary, and an ear to bend if they needed it.

Players who got to know her worshiped her, but the public rarely knew about it. About the only time I remember her getting any national exposure for all she did was in the post-game press coverage of the 1980 Sugar Bowl and Alabama's second consecutive national championship.

Major Ogilvie had just won the MVP and had ABC-TV and most of America watching when he was asked what he wanted to say about just being voted MVP.

Without even mentioning his own achievement, he said he knew Mrs. Bryant hadn't been feeling well this week, and he knew she was watching and hoped she was doing better.

So here's a guy with the biggest honor he had ever won with more people ready to hang on his every word and he's worried only about the condition of his "other momma."

Mary Harmon was always hosting parties, helping both students and new coaches and their families 'learn the ropes' of life in Tuscaloosa.

She helped with many charities and could always be counted on to give a hand to any organization that asked.

Terry Saban is cut from that same cloth. Recently, I had the opportunity to be with Nick Saban on signing day; he was commenting on the great class and all the people who helped land them.

He did not leave out Terry.

Saban has told me many times how Terry entertains mothers and fathers of prospects when they come to Tuscaloosa.

One particular story he recounted to me was of coming home one afternoon to find Terry with the Karaoke machine out and a full-blown party going on with Terry and the families of prospective recruits all taking part.

As he told this story, you couldn't help but notice the big smile and the sense of pride he has in his wife. You just don't see him smile that way very often.

Though in today's world of instant messaging and laptops with video calls, the boys that come to Tuscaloosa now are much less homesick than in the days of Coach Bryant and a lot less in need of a mother's touch. But Terry still makes connections with many of them.

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