Former Alabama coach Gene Stallings speaks at Sportsman's Banquet
by Johnathan Bentley
Aug 20, 2012 | 4610 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Former Alabama head football coach Gene Stallings signs autographs for, from left, Brian Bailey, Ethan Bailey, Margene Alexander and Roger Alexander during the free Sportsman’s Banquet held at Carbon Hill High School on Saturday. The banquet is sponsored by First Baptist Church of Carbon Hill. Photo by: Johnathan Bentley
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CARBON HILL — Former Alabama football coach Gene Stallings remembers his first trip to Carbon Hill.

It was on a recruiting visit to Walker County during his first year as an assistant coach at the University of Alabama under coach Bear Bryant.

“When coach Bryant first came to Alabama (in 1958), I was on his staff and North Alabama was my recruiting area. I recruited Cotton Clark from Carbon Hill,” Stallings said before speaking to a gathering at the annual Sportsman’s Banquet sponsored by First Baptist Church of Carbon Hill Saturday night. “Back then, players signed at 12:01, just after midnight. What I didn’t know is that all the coaches were supposed to call coach Bryant at his office to let him know if we had signed the player or not. After I signed Clark, I went to where I was staying in Jasper and went to sleep. I remember the phone ringing at about 2 o’clock. It was coach Bryant.”

Bryant let Stallings slide on that misstep and he remained on Bryant’s staff as a defensive assistant from 1958 to 1964, helping the team win titles in 1961 and 1964.

That was just the start of his time at the Capstone. Stallings returned to Tuscaloosa as the Crimson Tide’s head coach in 1990 and he led Alabama to the 1992 national championship, beating Miami 34-13 in the Sugar Bowl.

"We were very blessed to have Coach Stallings with us," said Scott McCullar, Pastor of First Baptist Church (FBC) of Carbon Hill. "He was very gracious and spoke two fantastic messages on Saturday night and Sunday morning. This event was a blessing in so many ways. Our goal at FBC is always to bring glory to God and I believe we did this weekend.

"We had a great crowd Saturday night and I'm thankful for the members of FBC Carbon Hill who worked so hard to make this event happen. I am also appreciative to the Carbon Hill Elementary/Jr. High and High School administrators who allowed us to use their wonderful facilities."

Though Stallings talked football on Saturday, he also gave a clear message to the more than 200 in attendance at the banquet, which was held at the Carbon Hill High School auditorium.

“It means a lot just to show somebody a little bit of kindness,” said Stallings, who also spoke at First Baptist Church of Carbon Hill on Sunday morning. “We live in extremely tough times. Parents, coaches and teachers have a tough job these days and I have a tremendous amount of respect for them.”

Stallings also spoke about the love for his son John Mark “Johnny” Stallings, who was born with Down syndrome.

“I don’t believe my life would be nearly as rich if I wouldn’t have been blessed with raising a child with Down syndrome. What a joy,” Stallings said of his son who died in 2008 at the age of 46. “There are songs and books written about Johnny and as long as there is football at Alabama, they will use the John Mark Stallings Equipment Room. When he passed away, we received 1,500 letters from people he had touched.”

Stallings made time for one family with a Down syndrome child before Saturday's event.

"A truly amazing moment occurred even before the event began when Coach Stallings met with a family who had a small child with Down syndrome. Watching that event take place, I can honestly say there wasn't a dry eye in the auditorium," McCullar said.

Stallings and his wife Ruth Ann also had four daughters and the former coach said he had the same hope for all of them.

“People have asked me before what I want out of life. I always said the same thing. When my children reach 29, 30 or 31, I wanted them to be faithful Christians. That’s all I wanted,” Stallings said.

Stallings also spoke about current Alabama head coach Nick Saban, who has guided the Crimson Tide to titles in 2009 and 2011.

“In my opinion, he’s just done an outstanding job of coaching and recruiting. He’s surrounded himself with a good coaching staff. He’s brought discipline to the program. I enjoy watching Alabama play because when they make a big play, they don’t jump up and high 5 each other or run around in circles. They just go back to the huddle. I really appreciate that,” he said.

Stallings will be in attendance for the Tide’s matchup vs. Texas A&M in Tuscaloosa in November. The Aggies are participating in the SEC for the first time in 2012.

“The Texas A&M President has asked me to sit with him at the game. As bad as I hate to say it. I will be rooting for A&M. Alabama’s not going to need any help and A&M’s going to need some. I’m a graduate of A&M. I coached at A&M and I was on the Board (of Regents) at A&M. I love Alabama too, though,” Stallings said.

During his tenure at Alabama, Stallings put together an impressive 70-16-2 mark and the Tide finished in the top 10 three times in his seven years while winning the SEC West Division four times. He was also named SEC Coach of the Year twice (1992 and 1994). Stallings also served as head coach at Texas A&M (1965-71), coached defensive backs with the Dallas Cowboys (1972-85) and was the head coach of the Phoenix/St. Louis Cardinals (1986-89).

Stallings was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 2010.