Football family tradition

Published 11:23 pm Friday, September 10, 2010

More than 30 years ago on New Year’s Eve 1979, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Penn State Nittany Lions faced off in the Sugar Bowl for the National Championship.

That game will be forever remembered in college football lore because of how the game ended that day.

With a fourth and goal situation from the one yard line and the Crimson Tide winning 14-7, the Nittany Lions lined up on offense trying to tie the game.

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On that field for the Alabama defense was defensive back and Atmore native Don McNeal.

After a tremendous goalline stand that is sure to be etched in the minds of every Nittany Lion fan where Tide linebacker Barry Krauss stopped Penn State running back Mike Guman at the goalline, McNeal and the Crimson Tide walked away that night with a championship. It proved to be the last of six national championships under the leadership of legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, and also snapped a 19-game win streak for No. 1-ranked Penn State.

Today, a lot of history will be made when Penn State head coach Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions visit Bryant-Denny Stadium to take on the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide.

The game is significant on many levels not just because of the traditions of both teams, but because McNeal’s nephew, Robert Bolden, is the starting quarterback for Penn State.

Bolden, a freshman for the Nittany Lions, started his first collegiate game last week against Youngstown State and put on quite a show. He connected on 20-of-29 passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.

For a true freshman in his first start, those numbers are quite impressive even against a school from a lower level of competition.

According to reports, McNeal is attempting not to pick sides between his alma mater and his family.

He is quoted in a story by columnist Dennis Dodd as saying, “Alabama is blood,” he said, “and the Boldens are blood, too.”

With that said, it should be an interesting Saturday for the McNeals and Boldens as two of college football’s storied programs faceoff.

Also of note, Paterno won’t be the only legendary coach in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. Recently retired Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden announced that he too will be at the game to witness history once again.

All-in-all it should be a great weekend for some Alabama football.

For those not making the trip to Tuscaloosa today for the game, you can watch it from the comforts of your own home as it will be televised on ESPN. Kick off is 6 p.m.

Chandler Myers is sports editor of the Atmore Advance. He can be reached at 368-2123 or by e-mail at