first 10 days of practice at Texas A&M was on ESPN last Saturday. This story reminds the Coach of some of the tales that came out of NU's first camp under Randy Walker and how things changed for both teams."> first 10 days of practice at Texas A&M was on ESPN last Saturday. This story reminds the Coach of some of the tales that came out of NU's first camp under Randy Walker and how things changed for both teams.">

On Bear Bryant, The Junction Boys and NU Football

The movie about Legendary Football Coach <b>Paul "Bear" Bryant's</b> first 10 days of practice at Texas A&M was on ESPN last Saturday. This story reminds the Coach of some of the tales that came out of NU's first camp under <b>Randy Walker</b> and how things changed for both teams.

I haven't seen any comments on the Bear Bryant Movie - The Junction Boys."
I guess you still can't second guess the old "Bear" about football, but I thought the panel discussion ESPN had an hour later was as interesting as the movie itself. The presence of 5 of the survivors of that first Aggie summer camp, including two men who went on to be legendary coaches themselves, really added to the story. They had some corrections to details, but they verified many of the events in the movie.

I'm still not sure if the Bear head butted that kid, but I'm not sure it matters. Paul "Bear" Bryant was trying to shock a team that was a true "Aggie Joke" into a team that could contend for a title in a Southwest Conference that was dominated by Texas and play in an area that also had Oklahoma as a power. Did he do it at the camp, or while teaching blocking the Spring before. They can argue that one up in the president's box all this season.

Anyway, a few more important things stood out.
First was the really negative impression Bryant had about the role of the Aggie Booster Club and the "good ole boys" trying to run the football team as a father and son club. Running out to Junction, Texas was a good way to avoid all the "drop by" assistant coaches.

Second, Bryant was trying to raise the level of play from a bunch of High School "all-stars" to the Southwest Conference standard. This was an era when you played both ways, and a big lineman was maybe 280 lbs. Blocking techniques may have changed, but not the need for hitting hard, being quick and explosive.

The "two a days" were designed to get a team into shape because few kids worked out off season. You didn't have the quality of training rooms at most colleges that you have today at High Schools! Linemen threw hay bales around all summer, everyone else might run a bit, but that was all. Bryant's line about wanting to be the only one's standing in the 4th quarter might ring a bell with those following NU football.

The last thing that hit me was the finality of playing college ball for many of the Junction Boys. This was the last chance for some of them to do anything before they drifted back to some kind of a life in small town Texas in the 50's. You get the feeling that it was hell in Junction (some will say it gets hot enough there in the summer), but after surviving Junction, those boys never had to look back - even if it took them 3 years to actually beat Texas.

Is there a parallel to Northwestern, and the Randy Walker style of coaching?
I'm glad you asked...

There is a big debate among various NU fans over the "My way or the highway" attitude that is reputed to be Randy Walker's style.

But guess what, you saw the same attitude in the movie, and while the script tried to make Bryant appear unsure of his tactics after the fact, the truth was that the Junction Boys all grew up out there in Junction, [by God] West Texas during those 10 days, and nobody even hinted that Paul Bryant didn't remain a tough coach until the end of his career.

As we've all learned, football is a tough game. You can die playing it, even in practice. But Randy Walker raised the bar at Northwestern. Like Bryant, he wants the Wildcats to be the last one's standing at the end of a game. The idea is that the only way to get there is to push yourself, and those who won't rarely get to win in the 4th quarter.

There is a group dynamic at work in these situations. Its supposed to break down the individual so the group can move towards its goal of accomplishing something. The military uses the same techniques in boot camp to take a widely disparate group of people and turn them into soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines. The Bear decided he had to do something radical to make the Aggies a team back in 1954, and I'm certain that Randy Walker saw the same need at Northwestern four years ago.

The group of Junction Alumni who appeared after the movie represented the winners - they were among the one's who were still standing after 10 days in the crucible - they will always be "The Junction Boys".  The new Aggie team they helped start, eventually won and now has a long winning tradition.

The Wildcats who stayed at NU - last year's graduates, this years Seniors - have also contributed to the future of NU Football (and athletics in general). Regardless of where and how much they've played, the present players have learned how to put their individuality into being part of the Wildcat team.

The stories we're hearing from prospects about how "tight" this team is, and how the present team believes in the future and the ability of the coaches to help them reach the next level tells me that the Wildcats are really starting to think of themselves as a team, and that can only lead to greater things.

-- da Coach
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