The legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant is recognized nationwide as one of the greatest coaches ever. So why did he always cite his 1-9 A&M team of 1954 as his favorite? This is the story of a remarkable team—and the beginning of the legend.
In August of '54, the town of Junction was a flyspeck on the map of Texas. On a day late in the month, two Greyhound buses weaved through a twisting and narrow two-lane highway. The Texas A&M football team aboard, 115 men strong, would soon arrive in a tiny town with no stoplights, one service station, and precious little else; just outside town, they would find an unforgiving patch of land littered with spartan Quonset huts, rocks, sandspurs, cactus, yellow dust, and gnarled mesquite tress.
As Texas suffered from the devastating drought, so too did Texas A&M football suffer from a drought of heart and talent. To the rescue came Bear Bryant, already a legend in the making, who was in no mood for a picnic. It was in Junction that he would make his stand, and it was there that he would drive home an extreme brand of blood-and-thunder discipline. In a calculated move that many consider the salvation of Texas A&M football, Bryant put his players through the most grueling workouts ever imagined. Beneath a broiling Texas sun, practicing on a drought-scorched field, only a handful would survive the ten-day Aggie Death Camp. The ones who braved the torchlike heat and the burning passion of their coach helped turn a floundering team into one of the nation's best.
The Junction Boys is more than just a story of tough practices without water breaks. An extraordinary fellowship was forged from the mind-numbing pain. The 35 survivors bonded together like no other team in America (among the Junction survivors who would greatly influence the game of football were Gene Stallings and Jack Pardee). They profited from the Junction experience; the knowledge they took back with them to College Station, about themselves and what they were capable of, would be used for the rest of their lives.