Former Alabama Coach Gene Stallings was in Montgomery Friday to be presented with the fourth Alabama Football Legend Award at a luncheon ahead of the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl.
Stallings, 82, made a powerful speech to players and coaches of Middle Tennessee State and Arkansas State.
"In the last four months, I've had two strokes and a heart attack, so when I say I'm happy to be here, I'm happy to be here...So what a joy it is to be able to visit with these players, you people that are putting on this bowl game. It's just something about a bowl game. That says you had a successful season. You had a bowl game," Stallings said.
He spoke to them about academics, kindness and told stories about the lessons he's learned, including what he learned from his son John Mark who had Down syndrome.
“My life wouldn’t be nearly as rich if not for the fact that I helped raise a child with special needs,” Stallings said. “I can’t tell you all the things that are named after Johnny. As long as they play football at the University of Alabama, the equipment room is named the John Mark Stallings Equipment Room. The beautiful playground behind the RISE program (on the university campus) is named after Johnny. Faulkner University – now this is a major university – named their football playing field the John Mark Stallings Field. I’m in seven halls of fame. I don’t have a football field named after me.”
Stallings coached the Crimson Tide for seven seasons from 1990 to 1996 and led Bama to an undefeated season and National Championship in 1992. He compiled an impressive 70-16-1 record in Tuscaloosa and went 5-1 in six bowl games during that time.
Stallings was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
Past winners of the Alabama Football Legend Award include former Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden in 2014, former Auburn coach Pat Dye in 2015 and Alabama All-American linebacker Woodrow Lowe in 2016.
The Raycom Media Camellia Bowl is set to kick off at 7 p.m. on Dec. 16 at Cramton Bowl. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN.
Watch Stallings' full speech below:
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