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.
"I heard the story of the Junction Boys from Gene Stallings when he was on my staff with the Cowboys. Those guys were some of the toughest to ever play the game. Jim Dent has really brought the story to life in a book any football fan would like to read."—Tom Landry, former coach of the Dallas Cowboys
"Jim Dent has written a terrific book about a time when college football players cared a great deal more about current Saturdays than they did about future Sundays."—Dan Jenkins, author of Semi-Tough and Dead Solid Perfect
"The Junction Boys is a powerful book about a transcendent moment in the history of American sports. Jim Dent's skillful use of dialogue brings Bear Bryant and his rugged band of survivors to life in vivid detail, making you feel their desperation to prove something fundamental and universal about themselves."—Keith Dunnavant, author of Coach: The Life of Paul "Bear" Bryant
"The Junction Boys is destined to become a bright and shining gem in the literature of sport."—Carlton Stowers, author of To the Last Breath
"From high school to the pros, the history of football in Texas is stepped in tall tales and tall deeds. But even fifty years later, absolutely nothing matches the legendary status of those ten days in Junction. Amazing stuff. I loved this book."—Randy Galloway, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
"The story of the Junction Boys remains one of the legendary stories in Texas football history. Jim Dent has brought the story to life in an intriguing style."—Blackie Sherrod, The Dallas Morning Star
"Dent has captured the unique spirit and color of a college football season on the brink of hell. Great reading."—Mickey Herskowitz, The Houston Chronicle
"The best book on a sports topic I've read in years."—Furman Bisher,
cf0The Atlanta Journal-Constitution