In elementary school in Alabama, the boys at recess used to line up and choose sides — Alabama or Auburn. Most chose the Crimson Tide. In fact, it was our third grade teacher, Miss Sally Smith, that taught Jimmy and I to love the University of Alabama in all things, not just football.

We grew up in the days of Paul “Bear” Bryant and Bama fans expected us to challenge for a national championship every year much like they do with Nick Saban at the healm now. But the entire South is football crazy not just Alabama. Up north they love their football teams. Down south we “worship” our football teams. I have often said that down South during the Fall season, we have two revival meetings every weekend — one at church on Sundays and one at the football stadium on Saturdays. And there is a lot more prayer on Saturdays than on Sundays, believe you me.

Jimmy and I went to our first Alabama football game together along with Eileen (his future wife). That was Nov. 9, 1974 (my Dad’s birthday). At the famous Legion Field in Birmingham, we watched our Crimson Tide smother LSU 30-0 in an afternoon game. Jimmy and I had recently come to faith in Christ. The next game we went to together, Bama lost so I won’t talk about that much!

Growing up, we would shoot basketball free throws in our driveway with the car radio on, so we could hear the game on Saturdays. This was before all the games were televised.

One televised Bowl game of note was the Alabama vs Penn State game of 1979. Penn State was ranked number 1 and Alabama number 2 in the nation. Bama was ahead 14-7 with just a few minutes left and Penn State had the ball inside the one-yard line, 4th and goal (they had been stopped on 3rd and one). The running back for Penn State took the handoff on fourth down and tried to jump over the line into the end zone. The Alabama linebacker came up to meet him at the top of the pile and pushed him back in what is probably the most famous play in Alabama history. What you need to know is that Jimmy and I were sitting on the couch together watching this. Without even thinking about it, when the Alabama linebacker jumped up to meet the Penn State running back, both Jimmy and I jumped from the couch to the front of the TV to help push him back. We did not just watch Alabama games. We participated in them.

Another game I remember, Jimmy and I were listening on the radio (Oct 12, 1974). Alabama was playing Florida State before Bobby Bowden’s time. At that particular time, FSU had lost 16 straight games. But Alabama was down to its third string quarterback. Both Gary Rutledge and Richard Todd had been hurt and knocked out for this game. But everyone said Bear Bryant could be quarterback and Alabama would win easily. FSU took the kickoff to start the game and went 78 yards for a touchdown. At the beginning of the 4th quarter, it was still 7-0 FSU. Bama got a field goal early in the 4th to make it 7-3. FSU then took a safety on purpose with about a minute left because of punting out of the back of their own end zone. They did not want a blocked kick for a touchdown. Then they kicked to BAMA and a young man named Willie Shelby ran it a good ways back. A pass to Ozzie Newsome got it in closer. Bucky Berrey kicked a field goal with 33 seconds left to put Alabama ahead 8-7. What were Jimmy and I doing to participate? Like always, we were praying along with the Crimson Nation. Does God care about how football games go? I don’t know. But Jimmy and I prayed like He did!

I’ll miss talking to Jimmy about Alabama football. When I cross the threshold into God’s country, I may hear Jimmy say to me “Roll Tide.” I’ll say it back and I may even find some Auburn friends to hug — and give them an Alabama hoodie!

Image may contain: 2 people, including Mike Stallard, people smiling, people standing