Gene Stallings Goes to Texas A&M
Gene Stallings was recruited to attend Texas A&M by Texas Sports Hall of Fame inductee Gil Steinke. Although Stallings pointed out that TCU and Baylor put together stronger recruiting efforts for him, Stalling’s future wife encouraged him to go to Texas A&M.
Aggie head football coach Ray George was dismissed before Stallings’ sophomore year. Stallings and his teammates were about to learn that there was a new sheriff in town. Someone that the A&M players had not heard of before, according to Stallings.
“The only thing that we knew in that part of the world was the old Southwest Conference. We didn’t know a thing in the world about the Southeastern Conference.”Embed from Getty Images
Bear Bryant Becomes Head Coach at Texas A&M
It didn’t take long for a new head coach, Bear Bryant, to make believers out of the Texas A&M football team.
“I can remember the first meeting that we had. He was speaking to the Cadet Corps there out on the grove on campus. He made a believer out of all of us that time.”
Although Coach Bryant made believers out of the Texas A&M Aggies, he did leave out a few details about what was about to happen.
“Coach Bryant said, ‘I want you guys to bring a change or two of underwear and we’re going to go on a little trip. We didn’t have a clue where we were going. Even the bus drivers didn’t know.”Embed from Getty Images
The Junction Boys
The team found themselves dropped off in Junction, Texas at a training camp that would become legendary for its extremely difficult workouts and conditions.
Stallings provided a glimpse on the conditions on the sports history podcast: “The facilities were bad. It was in the middle of a drought. We lived in a Quonset hut. I was a sophomore that year and so I had an upper bunk about two feet from the ceiling, which was a tin ceiling. So it was extremely hot.”
The practices were held in temperatures that soared above the 100-degree mark. Despite the heat, the team wasn’t allowed to take water breaks. “A lot of people quit. I never gave quitting a thought. It never even entered my mind,” Stallings said.
Gene Stallings at Junction
Texas Sports Hall of Fame inductee Mickey Herskowitz covered the Junction training camp as a journalist. He noted one thing in particular about Gene Stallings. “I was at Junction and the only writer there that actually stayed there while they were in camp,” Herskowitz said on The Texas Sports Hall of Fame Podcast.
He added: “One of the things I picked up right away was Stallings had a little notepad and a stub of a pencil that he stuck in the waistband of his football pants. Whenever Coach Bryant would talk about football techniques and things he’d whip out that pad and write notes. The other guys on the team respected that, but they giggled a little bit at it. Stallings didn’t care. He was gonna be a coach, and he wanted to know what coach Bryant knew.”
Bryant had been quoted as saying he wanted to “separate the quitters from the keepers.” By the time training camp was over, many of the players had left the team. Those that remained became part of a famous brotherhood known as the Junction Boys.
Who Came Up with the Name Junction Boys
“I’m the guy that really labeled them the Junction Boys, but I don’t know what else you would have called them,” sportswriter Mickey Herskowitz said. “Stallings was the guy that had the great line: People asked him how tough it was and he said, ‘all I know is we went out there in two buses and came back in one.'”
Stallings often likes to point out that the one bus was only half full.
Texas A&M under Bear Bryant
The Aggies finished 1-9 in 1954, Bryant’s first season at Texas A&M. That was the only losing season in Bear Bryant’s illustrious career. By 1956, Bryant built a winning program. Texas A&M went undefeated in the 1956 season and won the Southwest Conference. The Aggies followed that up with another fine season in 1957, a season in which John David Crow became the first Texas A&M player to win the Heisman Trophy (the next was Johnny Manziel in 2012.)
Incredibly, Crow was the only Heisman winner that Bryant coached.
Bear Bryant left Texas A&M for Alabama before the 1958 season. Gene Stallings took over as head coach at Texas A&M football in 1965. Stallings guided the Aggies to a Cotton Bowl victory over Bryant’s Alabama squad after the 1967 season. Coach Stallings later coached Alabama to a national championship in 1992. He also spent many years working for Tom Landry and the Dallas Cowboys.
Gene Stallings was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.
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