Stallings and Dye talk football, health
by Erich Hilkert
SYLACAUGA—The J. Craig Smith Community Center gym was packed with table with black table clothes and either crimson helmets with white stripes or white helmets with the Auburn logo on each side. More logos filled the back of the room—both Alabama and Auburn—in the form of helium balloons that also came in a football-shaped variety. Guests were present to catch a glimpse of former Alabama coach Gene Stallings and former Auburn coach Pat Dye at the second annual Men’s Health Event hosted by Coosa Valley Medical Center.

Organizers said there were more than 400 people in attendance with vocal interest expressed throughout the week the event was announced.

While Stallings reminisced about walking the sidelines with coach Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant, Dye was emphatic in his belief that Cam Newton is the greatest football player—anywhere.

Dye admitted Gus Malzahn wasn’t his personal top pick, but also stressed that at this point in time he is very happy about the new Auburn head coach.

“I said ‘You wasn’t my first choice, but I wasn’t against you.’ I said ‘I’m on the bus now,’” Dye said. “Since he’s been there, reaching out to the former players, alumni, the people that count and the staff that he’s hired, and all of the things that he’s done to bring the family back together to put some sand on the mulch of last year. I guess there was 84,000 people that showed up at the spring game. I think it was the greatest showing at Auburn that I’ve seen in 32 years. The only thing that would compare would be the ’89 Alabama-Auburn game and they had a reason to come to that. The spring game this year says volumes about the institution and the fans that love it and care about the football. Nobody in this conference wanted to see Auburn hire Gus Malzahn because they don’t want to look at that offense.”

When Stallings was asked about current Alabama head coach Nick Saban, he was effusive in his praise.

“The bottom line in my opinion: his players play better than your players,” Stallings said. “When the game is over, my players play better than your players, most of the time you’re going to win. I just can’t tell you what a great job coach Saban and his staff has done with the players.”

While the two legendary coaches discussed plenty of football stories, they also reminded the audience they were there to promote good health.

Carolyn Gregger, a registered respiratory therapist and manager at CVMC Sleep Disorders Center, along with office coordinator Kandi Cunningham administered tests via an oxygen saturation meter. Gregger explained that a score of 100 would be a perfect score, but generally speaking, a score in the high 90s is a good score. Gregger said turnout for the various screenings just prior to the Stallings and Dye talk had been extremely positive.

Dye cracked jokes and posed for pictures with nurses prior to his talk as they took his blood pressure.

“It’s time for you to get serious about getting all those checkups and they’ve got lots of them,” Dye said. “Like colon cancer, if you go get a colonoscopy, colon cancer is 100 percent curable is you check it early enough. I think it’s 100 percent fatal if you don’t catch it. So, go get all of them things that are available out there that help out. I appreciate the Alabama lady, the nurse for taking my blood pressure tonight.”

Stallings discussed helping build a hospital in Haiti.

“Every once in a while we do the right thing strictly because it’s the right thing to do,” Stallings said. “That’s one of the reasons I’m doing that. The right thing to do in this area, especially you men, is take advantage. Most of you men came out here to hear me and coach Dye sit and tell a few more stories, but take advantage of what they offer.”

Stallings opened up about his son John Mark Stallings and all the work he has done with United Way and countless others involving charitable medical causes, saying his son’s legacy lives on.

“Years ago, boy Johnny couldn’t count to 10, but he’s had books written about him,” Stallings said. “He’s had songs written about him. He’s the only guy in the National Football League that was in a commercial for the United Way for two years. As long as they play football at Alabama, the equipment room is named John Mark Stallings equipment room, Faulkner University in Montgomery named their football playing field John Mark Stallings playing field, in Cullman, Alabama a beautiful playground is named after Johnny, Abilene Christian University—fine people—literally helped change the world—Johnny was one of those, Texas A&M—where I’m a graduate—your 50th (year anniversary of graduating) you give something back. We raised $250,000 and endowed a medical scholarship—some young ladies, some young man goes to Texas A&M and studies medicine—the John Mark Stallings medical scholarship. Just recently on the campus of the University of Alabama they name the street the Johnny Stallings Drive.”

Just prior to the entire audience giving Stallings a rousing standing ovation, the former coach explained what made his son so special to him.

“Johnny was 45 years old and I’m putting him to bed,” Stallings remembered. “Most of you people that have 45 year olds, they come to see you, they’d really rather go somewhere else. ‘Gotta go to momma and daddy’s.’ You know what Johnny would tell me every night? ‘Pop, what are me and you going to do tomorrow?’ How would you like to have a 45-year-old say to you ‘Pop, what are we going to do tomorrow?’ He didn’t care what it was. We’d work out or we’d go get a haircut or whatever. He just wanted to know what we were going to do. In my life, I can’t think of somebody asking you about that. That’s why I say: what a joy and a privilege.”

© 2013