The Crimson Tide Defeated By One Of Its Own, Dabo Swinney

Former player for the University of Alabama and current head coach for Clemson shares a special moment with his former head coach Gene Stallings.

Tampa, Fla. –  Dabo Swinney was born in Birmingham and played three seasons for Gene Stallings at Alabama. In three season at Alabama Swinney had seven catches for 81-yards and was a member of the 1992 National Championship team.
Swinney was part of the 1992 national championship team at Alabama.

When he graduated from Alabama, he became a graduate assistant for the Alabama.  Later, he became the tight ends and wide receivers coach under Mike Dubose.  At the end of the 2000 season, Coach Dabo Swinney and the rest of Mike Dubose’s staff were fired.   Swinney sat out the 2001 season while receiving his contractual payments from Alabama. His former strength coach at Alabama, Rich Wingo, had become president of AIG Baker Real Estate and offered him a job. From April 2001 through February 2003, worked for AIG Baker Real Estate on development projects.
In 2003, Tommy Bowden, who was head coach of Clemson and Swinney’s former position coach at Alabama,  gave him a call and offered him a job.  In 2003, Swinney became the receivers coach for Clemson.  After five years as an assistant coach, Swinney was named the interim head football coach on October 13, 2008, after Coach Tommy Bowden resigned six games into the 2008 season.  After 2009 and 2010, where Swinney’s teams went 9-5 and 6-7 respectively, Clemson began a streak of 10+ win seasons.
In 2015, the success of Clemson football with Swinney at the helm put them in the College Football Playoff National Championship where they faced another successful program, Coach Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide.  In that game, Clemson fell short 45-40.  In 2016, Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney and his Clemson Tigers had a chance at redemption.  With Deshaun Watson under center and a solid defensive effort, the Clemson Tigers defeated Alabama by a score of 35-31.  While the term used for Alabama football has been “The Process”, it’s clear that there is a process with Coach Dabo Swinney and Clemson football as well.  That process has now taken them to the top of the proverbial “mountain” of college football.
As for Coach Saban and the Crimson Tide, the future continues to look bright with a solid recruiting class.  Two powerful traditions were on display tonight in Tampa, Florida, and Clemson took home the trophy.  When interviewed by WNSP Radio, Coach Gene Stallings said of Swinney, “I could see his potential. I didn’t realize he would be this good at such an early age, but I knew he was going to be a good football coach and I was right.”  Coach Stallings went on to say, “His players believe in him, his coaches believe in him, he’s knowledgeable, he handles his team extremely well. If you watch the game he’s involved. I just think he’s done a great job coaching.” Losing is hard, but for many Bama fans, when they look at who they didn’t lose to this past season and seasons before, losing to one of our own in the College Football Playoff National Championship game makes it more palatable.   One day, Swinney’s success might just lead him back home to Alabama.

The Day My Daddy Met Paul "Bear" Bryant

Daddy’s autograph from Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Circa 1973.

Athens, Ala. – As he laid there in Athens-Limestone Hospital, a nurse walked in and introduced herself as Pam Gaston.  “I’m one of the nurses here and patient liaison…” Daddy interrupted, “Are you related to Greg?”  She responded, “Which one?”  Daddy said, “The one with one eye.” Pam said, “Yes, that’s the one.  He’s my husband.  We’ve been married 34 years.”  As daddy enjoyed doing, he began to tell a story.  “I guess we were about 15 or 16 when Greg and I went down to The University of Alabama…”  I knew this story.  Daddy had told it many times before, but this time seemed more special.  Daddy continued, “Greg and I were in the Athens High School Concert Band together and we went down there for a concert.  We both played football for Athens too and decided to run all over the college until we found Paul “Bear” Bryant’s office.  We went through every building and opened every door until I saw that ol’ checkered hat.  I told Greg, ‘This is his office!  This is his office!’  I asked the secretary if it was Coach Bryant’s office and she said, ‘Yes.’  We asked if we could see him and she said, ‘Yeah, you can see him.’  She opened the door and we sat down and talked to him.”  Daddy paused and told Pam, “Ask Greg if he still has that autograph.”  I knew daddy had saved his.  Daddy said, “Dan Havely, the band director, gave us a paddling over that, but I met Coach Bryant and got my autograph!”
Three days later, daddy was diagnosed with Stage IV gallbladder cancer.  While it was suggested that he might have months to live, he actually had less than a month.  He had a few more stories to tell, but that would be the last time he would tell his Coach Bryant story.
On September 3rd, Alabama was set to take on USC.  Daddy woke up asking, “Where’s the counter?”  I asked, “What counter?”  Daddy responded, “The counter to sell tickets at the door! Ten dollars to get in and five dollars for popcorn!”  We had a laugh.  He was in good spirits that morning and ready to watch the game that evening.  By kickoff time, daddy had the “death rattle” coming from his chest and wasn’t alert enough to watch the game.  Laying in his Hospice bed, with family by his side, we watched the Tide roll against the Trojans.  Two days later, on September 5th, daddy was gone.   For the next several weeks, I had no interest in football and I had no interest in going on the radio show I co-host called, “Applebee’s Tailgate Talk”.  While he was sick, daddy had asked me why I was missing the show.  I told him that I was going to stay with him.  He wanted me to go on, but I also knew I’d have very little to contribute with daddy’s condition.  Although I felt like I was drowning, the Crimson Tide kept rolling.
Here we are 14-0 about to take on Clemson for the second time in two years for the College Football Playoff National Championship.  Win or lose, it will be a season I’ll always remember.
Wearing daddy’s houndstooth cap on Applebee’s Tailgate Talk.

Like Coach Bryant, daddy had his own style of checkered hat.  I wear it now in my daddy’s memory.  I’ve worn it around town, I’ve worn it on the radio show, and I’ve worn it to a couple of Alabama ballgames this season.  At the Alabama vs. Auburn game, an older gentleman sitting behind me asked, “Where did you get that cap?”  I told him it was my daddy’s.”  He said, “It’s a cool hat.”  I said, “My daddy was a cool guy.”
I never met Paul “Bear” Bryant, but I knew Mark White, Sr.
Me and my daddy, Mark White, Sr.

As with any of us, he had his flaws, but he was a good daddy.  Football was one of our many common interests, namely Alabama Crimson Tide football.  On Monday night, I’ll have daddy right with me in my heart.  You can mark it down.  Roll Tide Roll!

Adam Griffith: A Kicker's Story

Credit: John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports

Tucaloosa, Ala. – The words “hero” and “goat” are often synonymous to the position of placekicker.  In his time at The University of Alabama, placekicker Adam Griffith has been on the receiving end of both terms.
Credit: 247Sports

Many now know Griffith’s backstory thanks to a video biography produced by ESPN.  Griffith was born in Poland and raised in an orphanage.  At the age of 13, he was adopted by an American family from Georgia.  In high school, he was a member of the Calhoun High School Yellow Jackets located in Calhoun, Georgia.  Griffith was the 49th recruit in Georgia and was ranked the number one kicker in the nation.  A red shirt freshman, through hard work and dedication,  Griffith ultimately found himself as the starting kicker for the Crimson Tide.
During his career at Alabama, Griffith has had some memorable games.  For Auburn fans, Griffith’s 57 yard attempt, that fell short and was returned for a touchdown in 2013, is a memorable victory.  Of course, a runner has 10 other guys to get by on the football field, but it’s the kicker who is usually going to get the spotlight.  It goes back to the whole hero/goat dynamic.  In 2014, Adam played in the spring game with bursitis in his right (kicking) hip.  The injury, which was not publicized, required stem cell therapy from Dr. James Andrews and a month of recovery.  At the end of the 2014 season, Griffith had a “second” chance against Auburn.  Griffith made the best of that opportunity by kicking five field goals and two extra points in a 29-13 Alabama victory.  You can do the math.  For Griffith, it was redemption.  When asked about the kick that fell short against Auburn in 2013, he responded, “I forgot about that kick.  I don’t even remember that kick anymore. That was before. I don’t even think about it.”  Last season, with a tied game and the College Playoff National Championship on the line, Griffith kicked an onside kick which ultimately gave Alabama the momentum needed to propel Alabama to a 45-40 victory over Clemson.
According to Griffith’s high school coach, Griffith considered entering the NFL Draft at the end of last season, but chose to remain at Alabama for his final year. Griffith, who has already graduated, will suit up one final time as a member of the Crimson Tide on January 9th as they take on Clemson for the College Football National Championship.  Last week, Griffith made his lone field goal attempt against Washington.  Griffith will be on the field against Clemson next Monday and win or lose, at the end of the National Championship game, Griffith will take his place in Alabama Football history.  For Alabama fans, Griffith has been a part of many memorable moments.  Griffith’s story is one of success.  On January 9th, he’ll be ready to play.  You can “Mark It Down”.

Good Sportsmanship Makes For Real Champions

Glendale, Arizona – It’s been said, “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.” On Saturday night, as Clemson took on Ohio State, one Clemson player decided to make a move that was well short of being a good sportsman. In the second quarter, Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel was on the ground when Clemson’s Christian Wilkins intentionally grabbed Samuel’s where he shouldn’t have.  Unfortunately for Wilkins, the inappropriate move was caught on camera. After the game, Wilkins said, “I was being silly, and I apologize for that. It’s stuff you do when you are competing, and I know it’s not a good look. I apologize for that and I shook hands with him after the game. There were no hard feelings.”  Samuel’s said of the incident, if he had felt it, he would’ve been rejected.  What Wilkins did is much more than simply, “not a good look”. It’s unsportsmanlike. Wilkins says, “It’s the stuff you do when you are competing.” For him, that might be true (up until this past Saturday), but for those who have worked hard to compete in the right way, it couldn’t be further from the truth.  Coach Swinney responded to questions about the incident by saying, “I’m good with his apology.”  Fellow teammate, Ben Boulware, had different thoughts on the matter.  He said, “You get very comfortable around each other. I know there’s going to be that one person: ‘Well, I played football and never did that.’ You either sucked at football, you had no friends in the locker room, or you were the person that went in the bathroom stall to go change because you were scared to shower with the team.”  Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel disagreed with Boulware’s statement by saying, “We don’t rock like that this way.”  While there are many players across the sports world who play by the rules and compete in an honorable way, there are those among them who do not. With Wilkins’s apology, I hope that he will now make the necessary adjustments.
When we had our small business, I wanted to give an award to local players who exemplified good sportsmanship. At the beginning of the football season, coaches were asked to give us the name of a player who displayed good sportsmanship on the field throughout the season. At the end of the season, we would go to the football banquet and recognize the player with a plaque and a gift certificate. As a former player myself, how young people played the game was important to me and I wanted to show that I appreciated them. I’m still in contact with a couple of those former players and I’m proud to say they have done well post-athletics.
There is another quote that is used often. It is a paraphrase of a Charles Marshall quote from Shattering the Glass Slipper. The quote is, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” In the modern era of cameras everywhere and playback, people are watching more than they are not. Clemson’s Christian Wilkins found out the hard way. Wilkins did apologize, and I’ll take it at face value in hopes that he does better. Wilkins has one more game this season to prove himself as Clemson will take on Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship game in Tampa, Florida, on January 9th.  In response to Wikins extracurricular activities on the field, Alabama’s Cam Robinson had this to say, “They better not try me like that.  That’s all I got to say.”
I would like to encourage athletes to practice good sportsmanship. Don’t get in a position where you have to defend an unsportsmanlike action. Play the game the way it’s suppose to be played. By all means, compete. Give the game your all, but do it in a way that you can be proud of and at the same time be a good example to those who are watching. If you put that type of play into practice, win or lose, you will be a real champion. You can “Mark It Down”.

For Former Tide Player, It's About Attention To Detail

Conley Duncan displays his 1973 National Championship ring at Applebee’s Tailgate Talk on 12/17/16.  Listen to his interview here.

Athens, Ala. –  In high school, Conley Duncan was a talented fullback and linebacker for Morgan County High School, now known as Hartselle High School.  The University of Alabama, under the leadership of Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, took an interest in Duncan.  Recruited by Jack Rutledge, Conley decided to play for the Crimson Tide.  When Conley arrived in Tuscaloosa, he was placed behind another Alabama legend, Woodrow Lowe, on the depth chart at the linebacker position.  Conley described Lowe as maybe the very best linebacker that he has ever seen at Alabama. Duncan played at Alabama from 1972-75, earning letterman status his last three seasons.  During his playing days, Alabama won the SEC Championship every year and the National Championship in 1973.  Even with success, Duncan’s time at Alabama wasn’t without its challenges.  He said that as a senior he was misbehaving and he and his dad were called into Coach Bryant’s office.  As punishment, he was suspended the first part of the 1975 season.  Duncan was relegated to wearing the “orange jersey” and holding the tackling dummies for freshman.  Through good behavior and extra conditioning, Duncan worked his way back.  Not only did he work his way back, Duncan was named All-SEC linebacker and honorable mention All-American his senior year in 1975.  What was the key to success for Alabama?  Duncan says it was attention to detail. Under coaches like Paul “Bear” Bryant, Ken Donahue, Pat Dye, and others, Duncan said players were challenged to be better than they thought they were and they became better.  The importance that was placed on details and conditioning was ultimately what led Conley Duncan to his career as a speed, quickness and agility coach today.  Duncan worked with Cybex fitness equipment company before he started Major Sports Training Inc.  Today, Duncan primarily works at Point Mallard, working with young people in all sports to improve their skills and prepare them for the next level as well as those who want to get into shape.  One of his clients, Tanner High School’s Chadarius Townsend, has signed with the Alabama football team and is set to begin classes in Tuscaloosa in January.  Another client, James Veneigh, who simply wanted to get back in shape, had the following to say about Duncan.  “Conley Duncan is one the best coaches I’ve had the pleasure to work with.  I’ve been in his program for eight weeks and have lost 25lbs!  He will work you to your limit, but he will get you in shape and keep you on the right track.  He’s tough, but also a very caring person.  When i started with Conley, I was 250lbs and now I’m down to 225lbs. and my journey with Conley continues and will for sometime to come.  Without him I could not have gotten as far as I have.  So if you really need to get to get in shape, I would strongly recommend you get in touch with him.  He is great at what he does and I’m thankful and blessed to have him in my life.”  If you have a young athlete that you would like to send to Conley Duncan or if you want to get into shape yourself, you can reach Major Sports Training, Inc. at (256) 565-2904.  With Conley Duncan, you’ll be learning from one of the best in the business.  You can “Mark It Down”.