Alabama Team News

Former Alabama standout John Croyle changing lives, one kid at a time


Rachel Baribeau is joined by former Alabama player John Croyle on this edition of the “Joy in Sports” to talk about Bear Bryant and how Croyle’s Big Oak Ranch, which opened in 1974, continues to change lives in Alabama. Baribeau and Cryole share a story that has stuck with Croyle throughout the years.

“It’s the story of your coach in college, one Bear Bryant, and the whole reason this (Big Oak Ranch) is in existence besides your calling, besides your higher calling,” Baribeau said. “He had a huge part in that.”

John Croyle

John Croyle

Croyle remembers it well.

“Yeah, I’ll tell you, every ballgame, Coach Bryant would say before the ballgame, ‘In this game, there are going to be four or five plays that will determine the outcome of the ballgame. You might be the hero, you might be the coach, but rest assured the plays are coming,’ ” Croyle said. “Life is like that for each one of us.”

Croyle recalls telling Bryant about his dream to help children.

“I was telling Coach Bryant the story about what we wanted to do and I said, ‘I want to get the money from pro football and I want to start a home for children,’ ” Croyle said. “He looked at me and didn’t hesitate, he said simply – great leaders are always simple – ‘don’t play pro ball unless you’re willing to marry it. Go build that ranch you’ve been talking about.’

“I walked out of his office and I never looked back.”

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Baribeau asks Croyle about Bryant’s office, which had a reputation for being intimidating.

“He not only cut the legs off of the chair, I swear he had a button that sucked the air out of the cushion because when you would sit down, you would just sink,” Croyle said. “So here I was, 6-foot-6, looking over the front of his desk like a little 4-year-old child.”

Listen to the rest of “Joy in Sports” with John Croyle below.

(You can follow Rachel Baribeau on Twitter @RachelBaribeau)

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