where the writers are
Q & A: EX-ALABAMA QUARTERBACK SCOTT HUNTER

 

 

 

Scott was a senior quarterback and leader of the Alabama team in 1970. A high school star from Mobile, Alabama, he was part of the “new breed” of college students from the South, and his views reflect the new thinking that was happening on campuses throughout the country. In the early 1970s, Hunter found himself next to his idol, Alabama-bred Bart Starr, who was finishing up his career with the Green Bay Packers. Hunter helped guide Green Bay to a return to Play-Off contention, inspiring a memorable Sports Illustrated cover announcing, “The Pack Is Back.”

 

On the controversy surrounding Bryant’s statement. Let’s start with your question, did it or did it not happen? In 1970, did Coach Bryant bring Sam Cunningham in, prop him up on a stool in front of us, and declare, “This here’s what a football player looks like”?

It absolutely did not happen. I can unequivocally state that it did not happen!

It’s one of those great tales that takes on a life of itself; it’s almost too good to not be true. The story, it started going around, how or where it started I don’t know. I’m sorry it didn’t happen. I don’t know who first said it. I started hearing it a few years after the game, players talking, maybe a writer here and there.

As for the Jerry Claiborne quote, that Cunningham did more [for civil rights] than Martin Luther King, Bryant said it. . . . But Jerry and [Bryant] were good friends, so they both probably said it.

On racism and integration. Alabama was one of the last bastions of segregation. In that sense, although the SEC was integrated by Lester McClain, still schools were not really integrated. I think it took a catalyst to do that, coaches around the league saw clips, and it was obvious to all concerned and fans of all SEC schools that it was time for full integration of football teams. After that game, there were no arguments.

I had been to Vietnam on an NCAA trip with Mel Gray, the wide receiver, and some other black players. Mel was black, and I threw him a pass on the beach at Na Trang. I overthrew him, but with his speed he caught up to it. I thought, Man, I wish I could throw to a guy like that in a game. In my mind I’d crossed the line, but there was nothing I could do. It just took one person and one game like that, and after that everything changed.

I never really sit down and pore through the changes of that time; I just knew that so many things were going on on campus, so much change. There was a new world out there, [and] I knew we were never gonna go back to the way it was. After the summer of 1970 in Vietnam, I knew nothing was gonna be like it had been.

For me, playing in Green Bay, there was no problem whatsoever with black players. I never had a problem. In fact, many blacks were from the South and we spoke the same language. When I played under Bryant, class was something he spoke about all the time. He was friends with McKay. They went to that 11-game schedule, and that got it going. I was extremely pleased to play Southern Cal. I was a USC fan. I always made a point to watch the USC–UCLA game and I always rooted for the Trojans, O.J. over Gary Beban. I liked their offense; it was wide-open football. I liked West Coast football. I was a passing quarterback, and I almost thought about going to Cal. . . .

Martin Luther King’s legacy helped usher in an orderly integration of football, which caused harmony, not disharmony. Fans might have attitudes and prejudice, but when they saw white and black players patting each other on the butt, whooping, and hollering, the attitude they had before ended, and this caused the harmony King dreamed of. The cause of this harmony between races was football. . . .

My being a young man then, up until King’s speech at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where he said he hoped we would be judging a person by the “content of their character,” why this was what Bryant is saying. So if I pay attention to Bryant, I have to do the same thing, to respect what King said. So do I disregard King but pay attention to Bryant? No.

On Bryant’s intention for the game. McKay and Bryant may have been thinking that if an integrated team [won] the game . . . [that] it could influence the minds of our fans. Maybe not, I can’t really plot it out that well regarding Wilbur Jackson and John Mitchell, but USC’s black players impressed ’Bama fans.

It was time for change. Regarding the question of why Coach Bryant would schedule a game against a team that could beat him, it was different then. Today, coaches are looking for wins with bowl games, so teams don’t do that anymore. But I loved ’Bama–USC; it was a great series, a great recruiting tool. I think the schools should play two games against each other every 10 years.

From a political standpoint, it was a watershed event in the Deep South. There’s prestige in football, even Auburn fans put prestige in ’Bama football. For an integrated team to beat us as soundly as they did, it opened eyes. At that point, all bets were off and we could recruit blacks without anybody saying a thing about it.

’Bama football fans want to win games, number one. But capitalism, the freedom of democracy, and Christian morals—don’t get me wrong, Christians do and should [want] to win, there’s nothing wrong with it. The general blanket attitude of every person’s attitude was, “We need players who can run and tackle these guys on Southern Cal.” Everywhere in-between, that middle ground is where there’s some moral consideration. So some of it is winning, and this ties in with the program—making money. And some of it’s the promise of America—democracy. But it’s all centered on doing the right things.

Our fans had watched USC play so well. . . . They hated to lose, but it set the tone for the rest of the 1970s in Alabama, and on into the 1980s for all Southern football.

 

Keywords: