First Word: Beyond the prize

When the weather finally starts the transition from oppressive heat to the cool, crisp mornings signaling autumn, it also means the start of football season for many of us.

Depending on which part of the country you live in, you may either be a fan of the professional game or a college football enthusiast. In the South, college football is king. Quite possibly, the college game is so important in this neck of the woods because of the lack of a successful professional franchise. We believe, though, the college football game is much bigger than the game itself, and includes bragging rights, pretty girls all dressed up with some place special to go, the band loudly playing your college fight song and a great excuse for a party.

My good friend, Terry Killgore, the man who helped start this magazine 18 years ago, and who gave me an opportunity to join his staff a few years after that, was a part of college football history. Terry happened to play football for Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and the University of Alabama in the 1960s. He was the center who snapped the ball to a future Hall of Famer named Kenny “Snake” Stabler. Terry was a part of the Alabama teams that won back-to-back national championships in 1964 and 1965. The 1966 team, of which he was also a part, went undefeated and whipped an excellent Nebraska team in the Orange Bowl, 34-7.

Instead of winning their third national championship in a row, however, Terry and his teammates watched as Notre Dame received national championship honors – in spite of a 10-10 tie with Michigan State. Alabama was denied a three-peat, a feat still not accomplished in college football history. Coach Bryant would later say the 1966 team was perhaps his greatest ever, this from a man who won six championships. Killgore and his teammates were recently honored on the 40th anniversary on the ’66 season. All but a handful of players returned to campus for the festivities. Keith Dunnivant has authored a book in honor of this great team titled “The Missing Ring.” Even though they were never named, the 1966 Alabama team all felt like they were the real champions that year.

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If we’re lucky to live a full life, there will always be victories and defeats. The good news is both victory and defeat are temporary. How we react to each is what defines us as a true winner or as an unfortunate loser. Whether this season, for your business or your team, is successful or not, remain steadfast, fix your sights on a hard-to-reach goal, then stretch for all you are worth to achieve it. If you give it your all, then you will find much gratification – even if you don’t get the proper recognition.

“If you believe in yourself and have dedication and pride – and never quit, you’ll be a winner. The price of victory is high, but so are the rewards.” – Paul “Bear” Bryant