Just some thoughts:
I learned of this apology first hand in 1988 as it was shared with me by one of the people who was on the receiving end of his apology.
Saying you are sorry and saying you were wrong is one of the hardest things to do. Especially saying such to certain people can even add to the difficulty.
On May 18, 1979 a very famous college football coach did that very thing. Twenty-five years earlier in 1954 Paul “Bear” Bryant became the head football coach at Texas A & M. He left that college campus for a camp with more than one hundred players preparing for their upcoming football season. He took his team to some forsaken place in west Texas known as Junction City. Later the boys that would last through that camp became known as the Junction Boys. It was said that what went on at that camp was brutal. Thirty-five of that one hundred survived and that group of players went one and nine that first season, later Coach Bryant called them his most favorite team ever.
About the apology, saying sorry. On this hot day in May of 1979 as Bryant and his players gathered for a reunion outside of Junction City, Bryant stepped to the microphone and sized up his audience just as he had done twenty-five years earlier. It became very quiet. Bryant then turned to his right where the ex-players were seated, and studying the faces that no longer were in their youth, Bryant spoke. “I never had a team I was more proud of,” he said. “I came here today to apologize to y’all. I shouldn’t have done what I did to you twenty-five years ago. If somebody had done that to me, I would’ve just walked off, quit. I really would have.”
On another occasion Bryant wrote a letter to a former player who had left this program. In the letter Bryant wrote, “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life with the young men that I have coached; but the greatest mistake I ever made was with you.”
It has been said that a mark of greatness is the ability to say you were wrong, I’m sorry. I was wrong, I apologize. I’d say that Coach Bryant taught his players a bit more than just how to play football.
When he died on January 26, 1983 the only piece of jewelry he was wearing and was buried with was a ring that had been given him on that day in 1979. A ring by the boys from that team, the Junction Boys.
Coach Bryant is a legend and so revered in Alabama. For me this story carries more weight than his won and lost record.
September 2, 2016