Bear Bryant's Lesson to Live by:
IT DON'T COST NUTHIN' TO BE NICE
At a Touchdown Club meeting many years before
death, Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant told the
I had just been named the new head coach at
Alabama and was off in my old car down in South
Alabama recruiting a
prospect who was supposed to have been a
pretty good player and I was having' trouble finding the place.
Getting hungry I spied an old cinder block
building with a small sign out front that simply said
"Restaurant." I pull up, go in and every head
in the place turns to stare at me. Seems I'm the
only white fella in the place. But the food smelled good
so I skip a
table and go up to a cement bar and sit. A
big ole man in a
tee shirt and cap comes over and says, "What
I told him I needed lunch and what did they
He says, "You probably won't like it here,
today we're having chitlins, collared greens
and black eyed peas with cornbread. I'll bet you don't
know what chitlins are, do you?"(small
intestines of hogs prepared as
food in the deep South)
I looked him square in the eye and said, "I'm from Arkansas , I've probably eaten a mile of
them. Sounds like I'm in the right place."
They all smiled as he left to serve me up a
When he comes back he says, "You ain't from
around here then?"
I explain I'm the new football coach up in Tuscaloosa at the University and I'm here
whatever that boy's name was, and he says,
heard of him, he's supposed to be pretty
good." And he gives me directions to the school so I can
meet him and his
As I'm paying up to leave, I remember my
manners and leave a tip, not too big to be flashy,
but a good one and he told me lunch was on him, but I told
him for a lunch that good, I felt I should pay. The big man
asked me if I
had a photograph or something he could hang
up to show
I'd been there.
I was so new that I didn't have any yet. It
really wasn't that big a thing back then to be asked
for, but I took a napkin and wrote his name and address
on it and told
him I'd get him one. I met the kid I was
looking' for later that afternoon and I don't remember
his name, but do remember I didn't think much of him
when I met him.
I had wasted a day, or so I thought. When I got back to Tuscaloosa late
that night, I took that napkin from my shirt pocket and put it under my
keys so I wouldn't forget it. Back then I was excited that anybody
would want a picture of me.
The next day we found a picture and I wrote on
"Thanks for the best lunch I've ever had."
Now let's go a whole buncha years down the road. Now we have
black players at Alabama and I'm back down in that part of the country
scouting an offensive lineman we sure needed. Y'all remember, (and
I forget the name, but it's not important to the story), well anyway,
he's got two friends going to Auburn and he tells me he's got his heart
set on Auburn too, so I leave empty handed and go on to see some others
while I'm down there.
Two days later, I'm in my office in
Tuscaloosa and the phone rings and it's this kid who just
turned me down, and he says, "Coach, do you still want
me at Alabama ?"
And I said, "Yes, I sure do." And he says OK, he'll come.
And I say, "Well son, what changed your mind?"
And he said, "When my grandpa found out that I had a chance to play for you and said
no, he pitched a fit and told me I wasn't going nowhere but
Alabama, and wasn't playing for nobody but you. He
thinks a lot of you and has ever since y'all met."
Well, I didn't know his granddad from Adam's housecat so I asked him who his granddaddy
was and he said, "You probably don't remember him, but you ate
in his restaurant your first year at Alabama and
you sent him a picture that he's had hung in that place ever
That picture's his pride and joy and he still tells everybody about the day that Bear
Bryant came in and had chitlins with him."
"My grandpa said that when you left there, he never expected you
to remember him or to send him that picture, but you kept your
word to him and to Grandpa, that's everything. He said you could teach
me more than football and I had to play for a man like you, so I guess
I'm going to."
I was floored.
But I learned that the lessons my mama taught
me were always right. It don't cost nuthin' to be
nice. It don't cost nuthin' to do the right thing most
of the time, and it costs a lot to lose your good
name by breaking your word to someone.
When I went back to sign that boy, I looked up his Grandpa and he's
still running that place, but it looks a lot better now; and he didn't
have chitlins that day, but he had some ribs that would make Dreamland
proud and I made sure I posed for a lot of pictures; and don't think I
didn't leave some new ones for him, too, along with a signed
I made it clear to all my assistants to keep this story and these
lessons in mind when they're out on the road. If you remember anything
else from me, remember this. It really doesn't cost anything to be
nice, and the rewards can be unimaginable. ~ Coach Paul "Bear"
Editor's Note: I wish I knew who shared this
with all of the rest of us. The editor
wrote: Coach Bryant was in the
these few gentlemen for only minutes, and he
defined himself for life.
Regardless of our profession, we do
ourselves by how we treat others, and how we
behave in the
presence of others, and most of the time, we
minutes or seconds to leave a lasting
impression... We can
be rude, crude, arrogant, cantankerous, or we
can be nice.
Nice is always a better choice.
"I expect to pass through the world but once.
Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness
I can show to any creature, let me do it now. Let me not
defer it, for I shall not pass this way again."