It's a long road from playing the rock 'n' roller Buddy Holly to portraying the legendary football coach Bear Bryant, but Gary Busey has traveled it successfully. With an eye for the little things that reveal character this talented actor has crafted a fine portrait of the most victorious coach in college football history.
In this biodrama, screenwriter Michael Kane covers Bryant's youthful wrestling match with a bear; his career as a football end at Alabama; his courtship and marriage to Mary (Cynthia Leake); his coaching stints at Maryland and Kentucky, which were both cut short by rebuffs to the coach's large ego; and his glory-filled years at the helm of the Texas A&M and then the Alabama football teams.
Busey is especially good at conveying the Bear's down-home folksiness which helped in recruiting farm boys; the coach's ire (especially in response to charges in The Saturday Evening Post that he was involved in fixing a game); and his philosophy (his players had to learn the name of pain before they could learn the winning ways). Although the film is short on drama and seems a bit overdrawn now and then, Busey's colorful performance is worth seeing.