Greg McElroy dropped three steps, looked right, turned and fired the ball to Julio Jones, who caught the pass and made LSU defensive back Brandon Taylor miss. Jones sprinted 73 yards to the end zone, giving Alabama a 20-15 lead over LSU in a 2009 showdown inside Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Sitting in the first row in the north end zone seats were Marc Bryant Tyson and Paul William Bryant Tyson, the grandson and great-grandson, respectively, of legendary Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.
Emotions were running high after Jones left the Tigers defenders in the dust. But what happened after Jones stepped foot in the end zone let Paul Tyson know how big of a deal it is to be attached to an Alabama legend.
“I don’t know how this guy figured it out — but he was sitting next to me and just kissed me on the top of my head,” Tyson told SEC Country. “I was just like, ‘Are you crazy? What did you just do?’ I didn’t say anything because I was just shocked. It was really funny. I started laughing.”
Marc Tyson said it’s not uncommon for random fans to come up to them and either hug them or rub up against them when they learn that they are related to Bear Bryant.
“We have some crazy fans at Alabama,” Marc said with a laugh. “Some fans have papa’s picture tattooed on their backs and on their arms. I take it as a huge compliment.”
Bear Bryant, a lasting memory
Paul Tyson, who is emerging as a top 2019 quarterback recruit at Hewitt-Trussville (Ala.) High School, never met his great-grandfather. But because of the amount of stories from his family and random fans, he says it’s like he has known Bear Bryant ever since he was born.
A 6-foot-4, 210-pound prospect, Tyson said his three favorite stories about his great-grandfather are:
- Bryant wrestling a bear at a carnival for $1 when he was 13 years old. That’s where “Bear” came to life. Despite Bear getting his ear bitten during the fight, the carnival never even gave him the dollar.
- Bear playing in a game against Tennessee with a broken leg. “That just motivates me,” Paul said.
- The Junction Boys. When Bear was Texas A&M’s coach, he took his “Junction Boys” to a small Texas town in the middle of nowhere and practiced in extremely brutal conditions with no water breaks. More than half the team quit during the workouts.
“I’m definitely a fan of water breaks,” Tyson said with a laugh.
Marc Tyson made sure to keep his grandfather’s name alive by keeping memorabilia and pictures around the house, such as the jacket Bear wore in the 1982 Liberty Bowl, which Marc takes hunting sometimes.
“It’s a good, warm jacket,” Marc said. “People laugh and say they’ve seen that jacket before.”
The Tysons also make sure they get to their seats early before each home game. Right around 30 minutes before kickoff, Bear Bryant appears on video boards at either end of Bryant-Denny Stadium and begins to speak. When Bryant appears, the crowd goes crazy.
“It’s a little bit unique because a lot of people lose their grandparents, and in Paul’s case, he never met his great-grandfather, but he hears his voice every Saturday before games,” Marc said. “It’s like he knows him, even though he never met him.
“It’s very comforting to me because I was so close to him, so I get to talk about him every time I hear his voice on Saturdays.”
Future Tide QB?
Paul Tyson has started to receive interest from the Crimson Tide. Late last month, he was invited to Alabama’s junior day event. He met with Nick Saban, Brian Daboll, Jeremy Pruitt and Brent Key, who is a Hewitt-Trussville alum. Paul transferred to Trussville from Mountain Brook High School and is expected to be the team’s starting quarterback this season.
Every time the family makes the trip to Tuscaloosa, it’s a unique experience for Paul. Just to the right of the Walk of Champions is a statue of Bear Bryant. Look up and the Bryant name is on the stadium he has been going to since he was 6 years old.
You’d think that Paul Tyson feels lots of pressure to live up to his great-grandfather’s name.
In truth, he relishes in it.
“It really is an honor just knowing that I can be a part of that because of who my great-grandfather is,” Paul said. “Walking down the halls where the coaches’ offices are means a lot to me because my great-grandfather coached there. I love that because it pushes me, even more, to work harder. I want my name to be as big and next to my great-grandfather’s somewhere. I want to be like him one day.”
Paul is just beginning his recruiting process. He has only been to Alabama, Southern Miss, Memphis and Clemson for recruiting visits. This weekend he will visit Notre Dame, the school his great-grandfather was 0-4 against and had two of the most painstaking losses in his career, the 1973 Sugar Bowl and ’75 Orange Bowl.
Paul is an Eagle Scout — the highest achievement in the Boy Scouts of America — which he reached in the 10th grade. He is also focused on winning a state championship for Trussville, which is one of the best football programs in the state of Alabama.
Of course, he would love to receive a scholarship from Saban, but just because he’s Bear Bryant’s great-grandson, it doesn’t mean he’ll automatically go there, he says.
“I want to go wherever is the best place for me where I can help that team win a national championship,” Paul said. “If Alabama was it, then that would be the school. It’s definitely not 100 percent the school I would go to automatically. People might think that, but I would keep my options open.”
The Bear legacy and Saban
Saban is aware that Paul is Bryant’s great-grandson, but the two haven’t spoken about it in depth. Paul’s father, Marc, and Saban are friends. Marc believes Saban’s run of success hasn’t been matched by any coach in college football history, not even his grandfather.
Saban is one championship from matching Bryant’s six rings. Marc is looking forward to seeing Saban match and eventually pass his grandfather.
“People ask me all of the time if I want Alabama to win another national championship, and I say, ‘Are you crazy? Absolutely.’ ” Marc said. “I will be the first to shake Coach Saban’s hand when he does. It’s not a matter of if it’s going to happen, it’s when it is going to happen. I’m pulling for him to do it.”
Paul knows about his great-grandfather’s accomplishments, but Marc isn’t sure if his son knows just how legendary of a coach Bryant was because he has been around Saban, who is often compared to Bryant, for nearly his entire life.
“I don’t think he has grasped that papa was as big when he was around as Coach Saban is today,” Marc said. But Paul knows that his great-grandfather helped Alabama, in a way, get to where it is today.”
Marc has told Paul about what it was like to grow up with Bear as a grandfather. He was Bear’s only grandson out of five grandchildren.
“So, I was spoiled rotten,” Marc said with a laugh. “I got to be on the sidelines and meet him at midfield after the game and walk off the field together. He was a football coach, but he was more of a grandfather to me than just a football coach. I had no idea that I was doing anything special. It was just normal. I was just seeing my grandfather after the game.”
Paul Tyson’s Tide roots
Paul has played quarterback all of his life. His father said he began throwing a ball before he could walk. When he was in the crib, Marc would throw him a ball and Paul would just chuck it right back to him. Marc describes his son’s quarterback style as similar to Greg McElroy, AJ McCarron and Jacob Coker.
Marc believes that sitting so close to the action inside Bryant-Denny Stadium helped his son understand what it takes to play QB in college because he’s been able to pick up tendencies over the years from the Alabama quarterbacks.
Going to Tuscaloosa on Saturdays never gets old to the family. For Paul, it’s a chance to see and hear his great-grandfather — the man everyone in Tuscaloosa knows. For Marc, it’s a chance to reminisce on some of his favorite times with papa.
“It means a lot to me knowing that’s my great-grandfather,” Paul said. “I never got to see him, but just to experience going there and seeing that statue and seeing pictures all around campus means a lot to me knowing how well-known he is in Alabama to this day.”
Said Marc: “I feel gratitude toward the University of Alabama for keeping his memory alive. They don’t have to play that, and I appreciate the athletic directors for doing that to keep it a part of the tradition. I view it as a compliment. For me, it’s very comforting. It’s like he’s still around. Some people may not talk about their grandfathers at all, and I get to hear his voice every week during football season.
“We’re blessed with the state of Alabama for all they’ve done for our family. We’re just very blessed. If there’s one thing I can say to the people who support Alabama is just thank you for keeping my grandfather’s name alive.”