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.
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.
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!
Muscle Shoals, Ala. – The field at Muscle Shoals High School bears his name. The first player from Muscle Shoals to be drafted in the NFL, Homan was an exceptional all-around athlete. After graduating from Muscle Shoals High School, Homan went on to play for Paul “Bear” Bryant and the Alabama Crimson Tide. In the days when Homan played for the Tide, freshmen did not get to play. As a freshman in 1964, Homan said, “We got beat around by the seniors to help them win the national championship.” Homan’s freshman year, Joe Namath was under center for the Tide. Waiting in the wings was Homan’s roommate, Kenny Stabler. When asked about staying out of trouble with Stabler, Homan jokingly said, “I tried my best with Kenny, that’s for sure!” As a player, Homan originally came in as a running back, but became a two year starter at split end. On the other side of the field was another great receiver in Ray Perkins. As for Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, Homan said, “That was a man I feared more than any man in my life. A lot of our motivation was out of fear. We lost three games in four years and I remember the price we paid after each loss.” As a matter of fact, Homan said that before his senior year, he and his, now, wife of 48 years wanted to get married, but Homan said, “Coach Bryant put a squash on that.” Taking Coach Bryant’s advice, they waited until after his senior year to get married. In his time under Coach Bryant’s guidance, Homan was a two time SEC performer and was also named an All-American and Academic All-American his senior year, after making 54 receptions for 820 yards and nine touchdowns. The Tide won the national championship in 1965 and was undefeated in 1966. After Alabama defeated Nebraska 34-7 in the 1967 Sugar Bowl and Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers went on to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl I, Coach Lombardi was asked how it felt to be the best team in the world. His response was, “I don’t know, we haven’t played Alabama yet”. In the Senior Bowl, Homan was named the MVP of the South team. In 1968, Homan was selected in the first round draft by the Dallas Cowboys. Of his time in Dallas, Homan said, “I tried my best and did everything I could do”. His 1969 season with the Cowboys was his most productive on the field with 12 catches and 240 yards. While Homan was in Dallas, another familar Alabama name, Lee Roy Jordan, was there as well. Homan said, “Lee Roy was a great friend in Dallas and took me under his wing. He showed me what I needed to do and what I didn’t need to do.” Homan went on to say, “It was great having someone out there who came from the same place I came from. Lee Roy Jordan and his wife were good to both Charlotte and I.” On his years of playing football, and his life in general, Homan said, “The Lord has blessed me”. He went on to say that he wouldn’t take anything for the relationships made at Alabama, Dallas, and the Kansas City Chiefs. For his success on the field Homan was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1999. On or off the field, Homan said that he lives by the “Four F’s”. They are faith, family, friends, and football (in that order). Being able to use his success as a platform to share his faith is important to him. He said, “I’ll be stopped by someone in a store and it gives me an opportunity to share my faith with them.” Looking back, Homan said, “I wouldn’t change my life. I don’t believe I could’ve planned it any better. I’ve got the most beautiful wife, I’ve got a beautiful daughter, and I have a great son. When talking about the grandchildren, Homan said that they are all great athletes as well, but they don’t have to play sports to make him happy. In 2015, Homan’s wife, Charlotte, was included in Bill Norvell’s book “Inspiration From Anytown, USA.” Appropriately, her story was placed in chapter 25 of Norvell’s book which was Homan’s football number. As for his thoughts on Coach Nick Saban and what he’s done at Alabama, Homan said, “He has a great philosophy in what he’s doing. He’s bringing in great players and teaching them what it takes to win.” Having been coached by Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant himself, Homan is certainly no stranger to coaches who know how to win. Speaking of people who know how to win, it was Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant who famously said, “I ain’t never been nothin’ but a winner”. Well, Mr. Dennis Homan is among those winners. You can “Mark It Down”.
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”.