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Ala. congressional candidate remembers playing for Bear Bryant: ‘wouldn’t trade it for anything’

(Above: Gary Palmer recalls playing for Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant)

Gary Palmer, congressional candidate in Alabama’s 6th District, today released a video discussing his experience as a walk-on football player at the University of Alabama under Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant in the 1970s.

Even though Palmer never played football in high school, he tried out as a walk-on and made the Alabama Crimson Tide team.

“My dad wouldn’t let me play football,” said Palmer. “He would let me play other sports — baseball, basketball — but not football. When I was in the 10th grade I asked him again and he said ‘no.’ I told him that if he wouldn’t let me play football in high school, I would play in college. He laughed at me. I think he laughed partly because no one in our family had ever gone to college, and also because I weighed 125 pounds. But I filled out, got bigger, and eventually walked on as a wide-receiver at Alabama in 1975.”

Palmer said his favorite memory from his time as a walk-on at Alabama is a personal player interview that he had with Coach Bryant in his office.

“I had a very good fall. In fact, I did well enough that I was given a chance to play in a junior varsity game against Georgia Tech. But before I could dress out, I had to have a meeting with Coach Bryant,” said Palmer. “I sat out by his secretary’s desk as he was in his office on the phone with Texas Coach Darrell Royal. Hearing him on the phone with Coach Royal made it even more intimidating. He finished his call and called me into his office. I walked in and sat on the leather sofa in front of his desk that made feel even smaller than I was. He told me I had worked hard, done a good job, and that he was going to let me dress out for the game, but he wouldn’t guarantee that I would get in the game. He got up, shook my hand, and put his hand on my shoulder and walked me out of his office to the hall. I wouldn’t trade anything for that.”

Palmer wound up getting to play in the Junior Varsity game against Georgia Tech and it was the first football game he ever played in.

“People ask me why, having never played football, I walked on at Alabama,” said Palmer. “It was simply that I didn’t want to wake up one day when I was 50-years-old wondering whether or not I could have made it and regret not trying. I feel the same way about running for Congress and trying to get America back on the right track. I don’t want to ever look at my children and grandchildren and wonder whether or not I could have made a difference and regret not trying. I think we all have to give it a shot…we have to do all we can to preserve liberty and get America back on the right course. If we do, I think we can turn the country around. What a great life legacy that will be.”

Palmer has for the past quarter-century led the Alabama Policy Institute, a conservative research foundation based in Birmingham. He’s now running in the crowded Republican primary to replace Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, who announced last year who would not seek another term in Congress.

The primary election will take place June 3.

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

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