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December 20, 2012

Stallings had a way with words

TUSCALOOSA | Gene Stallings had a way with words.

Maybe it was that deep, growly Texas drawl, or perhaps it was just the way he learned to express himself. The former University of Alabama football coach brought his own lexicon to the Capstone in the 1990s, and familiarized fans and journalists alike with sayings and expressions that he often repeated.

Here are some examples of Stallings-isms:

"If I had my 'druthers ...": Short for "I would rather" do this or face this situation than do that or face that situation. This was Stallings' way of saying "if it was up to me." Example: "If I had my 'druthers, I'd rather have an experienced quarterback than an inexperienced one."

"That's cold-blooded": This was Stallings-speak for commenting on a harsh remark by someone.

"Trap": Stallings' word for a quarterback sack. Example: "We were able to trap the quarterback with our pressure."

"That bothers me": A favored expression that Stallings used often to express disagreement or dismay.

"Football games are won by football players making plays": Classic Stallings take on football. Alabama's coach would say this by way of making a point that schemes were not the most important thing in winning games, that the coaches' job was to put players in position to make plays and coach them up to be ready to make those plays when the time came.

"The player": To Stallings, this word could be singular or plural, but he most often used it in the plural. Example: "The player has the opportunity to compete in practice every day," by which he would mean that every player has that opportunity.

"We have to make 55 to 60 plays for the privilege of making three or four plays that make the difference": In short, Stallings' observation on football is that all competitive games are decided by a few key plays over the course of the game, but that no one knows when those plays are going to happen. This oft-repeated refrain was Stallings' way of saying that his team had to be ready and play its best on every play, because that play might turn into one of the plays that would determine the outcome.

"This is the most important game because it's the next game. If you don't believe it, try losing": Stallings wasn't one to take lesser-matched opponents lightly, especially after UA lost to Southern Miss in his first game as Alabama's head coach. His focus was always on the task at hand, with the realization that a loss could make a game seem very important in retrospect.

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