One of the most Crimson of all Tide football moments was the 1954 Cotton Bowl. In that game, a Tide team that managed to win the SEC despite victories in barely half of its conference games was matched against Southwest Conference juggernaut, Rice University. The high flying Owls featured all-world halfback, Dickie Moegle (later changed to Maegle as Texans proved unable (or was it unoeble?) to associate a long A pronunciation with an "OE" vowel combo.
Despite a valiant effort, full of pluck and grit, Bama fell to the beneficiaries of oil barons by a "closer than the score indicated" 28-6 margin. The game is famous for this singularly unforgettable play.
In this photo, Bama team captain Tommy Lewis (no. 42) prepares to come off the bench to tackle Moegle as he races down the right sideline for a touchdown. After the illegal tackle, the referees awarded Rice a 95-yard touchdown. Lewis explained his departure from the rules of football thusly: "I guess I am just too full of Alabama."
The fates of Lewis and Moegle were inextricably intertwined from that point onward. They even appeared on the Ed Sullivan show together. Indeed, Sullivan and Moegle became lifelong friends as a result of this meeting.
Lewis went on to a career in the Canadian Football League and then became a coach. He lived much of his post-playing days in Huntsville, Alabama. One day, the best friend of his auto mechanic's second cousin's sister's hairdresser's insurance agent told him about a certain Tide fan in the greater Huntsville area. They were introduced and became great friends, golf partners, and Natty Lite afficianados. That friend will be forever known as B.B.
What is less publicized, but far more important, was Lewis' mentorship of multi-generational Tide star, Freddie Kitchens. Kitchens was perhaps the pluckiest and grittiest of all Tide quarterbacks, leading dominant Tide teams in the Bryant era as well as inspiring less capable Tide squads in the Dubose and Shula eras.* Throughout these adventures, Kitchens and Lewis built a strong personal relationship that was so full of Bama.
Kitchens always wanted to play professional football. Unfortunately, opportunities were scarce for a man who spent parts of three decades as a college quarterback for the only team that really matters. But, just when Kitchens thought his dreams were dashed, in stepped Mr. Cotton Bowl 1954.
Lewis encouraged Kitchens to follow his dream -- but as a coach -- with a fervor that only one who has worn the Crimson jersey can muster. And, remembering that the Rose Bowl is in Pasadena, Kitchens responded in true Bama fashion. Ultimately, Kitchens became an NFL coach. He joined the staff of the Arizona Cardinals under former Bama Offensive Coordinator, now NFL head coach, Bruce Arians. Arians is thought by many to be the most brilliant Tide coordinator in history. Kitchens, now his protege, has coached future Hall of Famer Carson Palmer as QB coach as well as stints with running backs and receivers. During the game planning stages, he continues the Arians flair for unexpected play calls at unconventional times.
None of this would have been possible without the encouragement of Tide Legend, Tommy Lewis. Lewis and Kitchens: a great pair.
Full of Bama, Part Deux.
*NCAA Rules bent beyond elastic limit, courtesy of the University of Alabama School of Law.