Staff Pick — John — JUNCTION BOYS: HOW TEN DAYS IN HELL WITH BEAR BRYANT FORGED A CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM, by Jim Dent, DT 07156

Are you ready for some Football?

Of course, you are.  The only thing bigger than Football in Texas is Texas itself.

Football season is finally here.  Fans have lots of options when it comes to reading about gridiron glory.  A hard-nosed, old-school book about Football and Texas is JUNCTION BOYS: HOW TEN DAYS IN HELL WITH BEAR BRYANT FORGED A CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM, by Jim Dent.

Hired in 1954 to revive Texas A&M’s moribund football program, Paul “Bear” Bryant decided to “separate the quitters from the keepers.”  In the midst of an historic drought, Bryant took 115 Aggie football players to the Hill Country town of Junction for preseason training camp.  10 days later, only 35 players remained.

Brutal doesn’t being to describe what the players endured.  The practice “field” was a rock-strewn, goathead-encrusted patch of sunbaked dirt.  Temperatures soared well beyond 100°, but Bryant forbade water breaks.  One player nearly died of heatstroke.

After returning to College Station, the survivors battled through a 1-9 season. Two years later, they were undefeated Southwest Conference champions.  Bryant not only revived the football program, he may have saved the University itself.

After the 1957 season, Bryant left Texas A&M and returned to his alma mater, the University of Alabama.  The rest is history.  Bryant won six National Championships at Alabama and is considered the greatest college football coach of all time.

But despite all those glorious Crimson Tide championship teams, that gritty 1954 Texas A&M squad was his favorite.  Bear loved the “Junction Boys.”

With cameo appearances by Bonnie & Clyde,the Chicken Ranch, Elvis Presley, and a hay bale stuffed with $10,000 in hundred-dollar bills, JUNCTION BOYS: HOW TEN DAYS IN HELL WITH BEAR BRYANT FORGED A CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM is a treasure for college football fans and Texas History buffs alike.

NLS Annotation: The story of Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant’s legendary training camp in 1954 in the small town of Junction, Texas. In a move that many consider the salvation of the Texas A&M football program, Coach Bryant put 115 players through the most grueling practices ever imagined. Only a handful of players survived the entire ten days, but they turned a floundering football team into one of the nation’s best. Strong language.  1999.

If you view football through burnt orange glasses and prefer a 24-letter alphabet (no A&M, please), turn your Eyes of Texas toward THE DARRELL ROYAL STORY (DT 02830) by Jimmy Banks; or BLEEDING ORANGE: TROOULBE AND TRIUMOH DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS (DT  5515), by John Maher.  Another amazing story of Texans and football is TWELVE MIGHTY ORPHANS: The Inspiring True Story of the Mighty Mites Who Ruled Texas Football (DT 07025), also by Jim Dent.

Elmer Kelton’s novel, THE TIME IT NEVER RAINED (DB 49217; LB 03803), is a superb account of the of the 1950s drought that ravaged west Texas.

Catch a peek of the 2002 television movie, “The Junction Boys,” starring Tom Berenger as Bear Bryant, here: http://www.espn.com/eoe/junctionboys/index.html.

 

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