TUSCALOOSA, Ala (WIAT) — It’s been 35 years since legendary Coach Paul Bear Bryant passed away.
Decades have passed, but many say his presence is still felt around Tuscaloosa and Alabama football.
Many who were alive 35 years ago said they remember where they were and what they were doing the day the Bear died.
So for some, it was like going down memory lane.
“We were playing a pick-up football game on artificial turf on practice field when news started circling,” said Alabama alum Phil Romine.
“I remember exactly where I was, and exactly what I was doing and my heart sinking and thinking ‘this can’t be right? He can never die? Bear Bryant is dead? That’s something that can’t happen. He was a bigger than life guy,” said Gary Lewis, from Rama Jamas restaurant near Bryant-Denny Stadium.
But 35 years ago, Coach Bear Bryant died unexpectedly at the age of 69 from a heart attack.
The state was in disbelief, flags at half staff, and buildings hanging black drapes. Alabama fans across the state were in mourning.
Phil Romine remembers that day quite well. He was a senior at the University of Alabama.
“Everyone just kind of stopped what they were doing and we just kind of stood there. We didn’t know how to respond or how to act.. It was a surreal kind of afternoon,” said Romine.
He was such a legend, and even for those who never lived the days of Bear Bryant said.his presence is still felt.
“He’s everywhere on campus. You see his statue in front of the stadium, there’s pictures of him everywhere, it’s hard to miss or forget him,” said freshmans Hannah Oliber and Mary Catherine Beggs.
“I think it’s part of the admission test you know Bear Bryant and his impact on the university and football here,” said Michael Hebron from Rama Jamas.
And if you need a refresher on the Bear, the Bryant Museum in Tuscaloosa has been educating a new generation on the foot prints Bryant left on the game of college football.
“His legacy is as strong today perhaps as ever. You can’t go on campus without seeing houndstooth which of course reminds of us Coach Bryant,” said Ken Gaddy, director of Bryant Museum.
And for Phil, he’ll always remember the day he ran into the Bear.
“We were standing there and he tips his hat and says ‘gentleman’ and that means nothing except to 2 young college guys that idolized Bear Bryant and grew up wanting to play for him,” said Romine.