When Bear Bryant took over the Texas A&M football program in 1954, he inherited a team that had lost its last five games by a combined score of 133-41. That season more than 100 Aggie hopefuls arrived in the small town of Junction for the first practice of a now legendary training camp. The sun bore down. The drills escalated. Trainers doled out water like gold, and meals and accommodations were horribly spartan. Ten hellish days later, only 34 remained to form the 1954 team that would only win one game, but those survivors--and that's what they were--formed the nucleus of the squad that would go undefeated just two years later.
This is the story of that team, that coach, the 10 days that shook their world, and the seasons they played together. "We lost alot (sic) of games," recalls Gene Stallings, who endured those days as a player and eventually followed Bryant as head coach both at A&M and Alabama, "but Coach Bryant knew what he was doing. Out of the yellow dust and the broiling heat of Junction, he forged a team of champions." Jim Dent's evocative recounting is so real and immediate you'll feel your throat getting scratchy as you read. You'll also feel remarkable respect for the players who toughed it out--and for Bryant, who begins as a man possessed, but, day after day, as he breaks the backs of some and helps instill true grit in others, transforms into a human being. --Jeff Silverman
From Publishers Weekly
When Paul "Bear" Bryant left the University of Kentucky to take the reins of the Texas A&M football program in 1954, his legend was already approaching Texas-size proportions (almost 30 years later, Bryant became the winningest Division I coach of all time, with most of his victories coming at the University of Alabama). The problem: he knew he had inherited an awful team. Texas sportswriter Dent (King of the Cowboys) tells how Bryant turned the A&M program around. Over 100 boys rode in three buses out to the remote west Texas town of Junction and began grueling practices on cactus-riddled gravel in 110-degree heat, with no water. Ten days later, all but 34 had quit or simply run off. The team won just one game that season; two years later, however, A&M went undefeated. Dent has produced a richly evocative chronicle of the time and place, filled with bourbon-swilling, money-rolled alumni and every conceivable form of coaching sadism (Bryan deliberately broke one player's nose with his own forehead on the first day of practice). Culled from dozens of interviews with participants, Dent's text follows the players through the training camp, the team's eventual success and Bryan's continuing influence in their lives. Dent is a smooth storyteller, and he writes with a novelistic, often gritty touch. Though he does show Bryan paying for recruits, driven by pride and savagely attacking his players, he excuses Bryan's excesses as part of what it takes to build winning character. In the end, Dent gives readers a whooping celebration of the myth of Texas gridiron machismo. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.