In the fall of 1980, I was a freshman in the Famous Maroon Band, occupying the far left-hand position on the MSU snare drum line. And so it was I found myself in Jackson at attention with other members of the drum line in the end zone prior to the State – Bama game, anticipating another perennial shellacking at the hands of the Crimson Tide.
As was the custom, we were waiting for a cue from our drum captain to begin a cadence to march the band into the stadium—a cadence that always brought the student section to its feet to cheer.
Out of the corner of my eye, I caught someone standing to my left, staring at me. It was none other than Paul “Bear” Bryant, waiting with a sheriff’s deputy to escort him across the field to their sideline. While my mouth was still agape, he said, “Play that drum, boy!” Before I could even think about it, I knocked out a quick riff. As the student section sprang to their feet prematurely, the Bear looked at me with a smile and said, “Well all right!“
As I recall, the next thing I saw was my drum captain letting me know in no uncertain terms that I had messed up, big time. To which I replied, “Bear Bryant asked me to play, what was I supposed to do?“
As the history books now record, we went on to defeat the University of Alabama 6 to 3 in a game forever etched in the memories of those who were privileged to witness it. As for me, I will always remember Nov. 1, 1980 as my Bear encounter.
~ Steve Young (B.S. chemical engineering, ’85)