Coach Bradshaw played key role in getting Joe Namath to Alabama

Published 6:38 pm Tuesday, March 30, 2021

By Bill Rice

Coach Howard Schnellenberger, best known as the first coach to win a national title at Miami, passed away this week. A story from ESPN hit all the right points about the impressive coaching career of Coach Schnellenberger. A detail mentioned in the article  referenced an event in Coach Shnellenberger’s resume that actually has a “Troy connection,” one some residents might not be familiar with.

As the story notes, Coach Schnellenberger was a former player (at Kentucky) and then assistant coach (at Alabama) for Coach Bryant. The story points out that Coach Snellenberger convinced Joe Namath to come to Alabama.

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What many Troy and Alabama residents might not know is that former Troy State head football coach Charlie Bradshaw was the Alabama assistant who first learned that Namath was “on the market” as a potential signee.

Namath had barely missed qualifying academically at Maryland. As the story has been related to me, a Maryland coach called Coach Bradshaw and told him the news about Namath not qualifying (undoubtedly because he didn’t want to face an opponent where Namath was the QB.)

Coach Bradshaw acted immediately, told Coach Bryant this news and shared what he’d been told about Namath’s talent and potential. Based on Coach Bradshaw’s “intelligence,” Coach Bryant dispatched Coach Schnellenberger to “go get” Namath.

(From reading everything I can on Coach Bryant and a good bit on Namath, I learned that Schnellenberger pretty much stayed at the Namath house in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania for two or three days and didn’t leave until Namath was on the plane back to Tuscaloosa with him. As the story goes, Coach Schnellenberger had to bounce checks to cover his expenses, which I assume were reimbursed).

My late father Bill Rice, Sr. was a senior on the ‘61 championship team and, for one year, got to see a young Joe Namath every day in practice.

Dad said every varsity player that scrimmaged against the scout team QB knew he was going to be great. According to Dad, at this point in his life, Namath was not the flamboyant or cocky QB he later became known as. He was actually fairly shy and was probably dealing with major culture shock, Dad reported to his three sons (who of course asked about Namath).

But it’s no doubt true that Namath would NOT have become an Alabama legend if not for Coach Schnellenberger’s successful recruiting efforts … as well as a history-changing “heads up” from Coach Bradshaw.

…. Anyway, now you know “the rest of the story” about how Joe Namath ended up at Alabama.