July 11, 1940|
|Died:||December 10, 1968
|Height||6 ft 0 in (183 cm)|
|Weight||200 lb (91 kg)|
|College||University of Alabama|
|High school||Scottsboro (AL)|
In his senior season, he led the Crimson Tide to a perfect record of 11–0–0 and the NCAA national championship for 1961, and finished fifth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy. A third-generation physician, he lost a six-month battle with metastatic testicular cancer at age 28, shortly after earning his medical degree.
Pat Trammell was born in Scottsboro, Alabama, as the middle son of a prominent local physician, Dr. Edward Lee Trammell. He quickly excelled both in athletics and academics. He wished to become a physician like his brother, father and father's grandfather.
He was the starting varsity quarterback at Scottsboro High School, where he earned All-County, All-State, All-Southern and All-American honors during his four year prep career, where he broke a string of records including having thrown 40 touchdown passes during this period. He was also named most valuable basketball player in state of Alabama as a high school senior.
His football career at Alabama began just prior to Paul "Bear" Bryant's announcement that he planned to return to his alma mater to take over as head coach of the ailing football program. Trammell's family recalls a personal visit at the time and a 'pep talk' from Coach Bryant saying that, "if you'll commit to Alabama, then I'll come back to Alabama." Trammell had actually planned to attend Georgia Tech, after being heavily recruited by Hall of Fame head coach Bobby Dodd but at this point, made a career-altering decision that would change the rest of his life.
Bryant's influence would once again bring the program into the national spotlight and Trammell was his first star player. As a sophomore, in 1959, Trammell led Alabama in total offense and then led in total scoring in the 1960 season, including a win against the Fran Tarkenton-led Georgia Bulldogs. Coach Bryant had promised the team in 1958 the impossible notion that they would win a national championship within four years, if they could 'stick it out', as told by team-mates Billy Neighbors, Bill Oliver and Mal Moore. After being named SEC champions in 1960, his bold prediction soon would become mysteriously true. The following year, Trammell would lead the team to a perfect season and ultimately to a NCAA National Championship for 1961 (AP, UPI, NFF - unanimous), which was the first in 16 years for Alabama.
On December 5, 1961, at the National Football Foundation's reception in the Grand Ballroom at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, with President John F. Kennedy, Coach Bryant and Pat Trammell together proudly accepted the MacArthur Trophy in recognition of Alabama's perfect season and championship. The black tie event was hosted by Bob Hope and was attended by General Douglas MacArthur, Vince Lombardi, head coach of the Green Bay Packers (under whom, ironically, at the time was NFL quarterback great and Alabama alumnus Bart Starr who subsequently led the Packers to five NFL titles), Sidney L. James, the founding editor and publisher of Sports Illustrated and dozens of other College Football Hall of Fame Inductees. (Of interest, a similar semi-fictional scene was digitally remastered in Winston Groom's film, Forrest Gump, in 1994, with President John F. Kennedy digitally morphed into the set with Tom Hanks, who played Forrest Gump, a celebrated (fictional) Alabama football player, who had accepted a handshake from the President and was asked "how does it feel to be an All-American?". Winston Groom had been a freshman at the University of Alabama in 1961 during this time period.)
After realizing Bryant's prophecy from 1958 in the undefeated 11–0–0 championship season of 1961 and after winning the Sugar Bowl, the National Championship and the MacArthur Bowl Trophy, multiple awards and recognitions followed suit (the following is a partial list). Pat Trammell was selected NCAA Academic All-American, was named the 1961 SEC Most Valuable Player, All-SEC (First Team) Back of 1961 season (AP, UPI) and All-SEC Academic Selection. He was voted as the 1961 Collegiate Player of the year by the Touchdown Club of Atlanta. He was chosen as the 1961 Most Valuable Back by the Birmingham Monday Morning Quarterback Club. He was chosen to receive the Most Valuable Player Award for 1961 by the Nashville Banner. He was 5th runner up in the vote for the Heisman Trophy. Although the Birmingham Touchdown Club SEC player of the year award did not begin until 1979, he has been publicly honored and recognized by this organization on multiple occasions. By becoming the permanent 1961 team Captain, Pat Trammell had his hand prints and cleat-prints stamped into the Walk of Fame in 1961 as "most outstanding player" on the ingress of Denny Chimes on the Quad at the University. This was the last time that this designation was ever made.
Several interviews of family members and players that knew him best gleaned some light on what made him so exceptional and 'unbeatable'. He had mastered the cognitive component of the fundamentals of the game by using his gifts of a 'photographic memory' and 'field presence'. At any given moment during any play of any game, he knew how it was intended to unfold, not just for his position, but for every player on the field. He would have anticipated the next move of his opponents well before they knew it themselves. Even when outmatched, he would hone in and exploit the weak link of the defense to leverage an upper hand. What Bryant found to be so amazing was that even though he was not a superior athlete, he was always able to find the necessary resources in the exact way at the exact time to overcome the odds, 'make things happen' and deliver a win. Bryant would continue to build on this foundation for the rest of his career to turn average players with average skills into exceptional players who would believe in themselves and become winners both on and off the field. p. 88, p. 90
Teammate Billy Neighbors ('59–'61) would later say that Pat Trammell was the "smartest and best football player I'd ever played with .... period. And I played with some great players, like Bob Griese and Babe Parilli. Pat Trammell was still the smartest football player .... it was just the way he ran the team, the offense." p. 89
Incoming quarterback, Joe Namath ('61–'64), was heavily influenced by Pat Trammell during their overlapping season of 1961. "Pat's leadership was exemplified by his toughness," said Namath. "He was a demanding mentor and certainly made me a better quarterback. I miss that smile of his."
Vince Lombardi would pressure Coach Bryant to persuade Pat to come to play for him with the Green Bay Packers after graduation. Coach Bryant responded, "Pat is too smart to play professional football ... he will go on to medical school to fulfill his personal goals." Trammell majored in physical chemistry in the department of chemical engineering and graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa
In one poll, the 1961 Alabama team was voted as "the Best All-Time SEC football team" to ever play for the SEC, and, in another, the third best college football team of all time. To have turned around a decade of losing streaks from scratch and collectively outscore their opponents 297 to 25, Coach Bryant and this team have been thought to have pioneered the revolutionary turning point for the modern day University of Alabama football championship dynasty. Coach Bryant would go on to win the National Coach of the Year Award for 1961, which was his first of three, as well as his first of six NCAA Division I FBS (I-A) National Championships, all of which were more than any other college football coach in history, until tied by Nick Saban in 2018. Coach Bryant would ultimately be considered as the 'greatest college football coach of all times.'
Trammell set multiple records during his career at Alabama, mostly during his senior season. 1,314 total yards with 1,035 passing yards was, at the time, a school record. At the conclusion of his final season, he would hold the record as the winningest quarterback in the entire Crimson Tide history, compiling a 26–2–4 record for a 0.875 winning percentage as a starter. This record stood 33 years until it was broken by Jay Barker in 1994, with a 35–2–1 record for a 0.934 winning percentage. Jay Barker would be later awarded the prestigious Pat Trammell Award.
Currently, Trammell still holds two records at the university. Having thrown only two interceptions in 1960 from 133 passes is currently the lowest interception percentage at just 1.5%, setting the single season record. He also holds the career record for lowest interception percentage, throwing only four in 225 passes (1.8%).
Trammell died of metastatic testicular cancer on December 10, 1968, at the age of 28 – only two years after earning his M.D. degree from the Medical College of Alabama, today's University of Alabama School of Medicine. He was completing a residency in Dermatology and planned to continue practicing medicine as a third generation doctor. He left behind a wife and two young children.
Hundreds attended his funeral in Scottsboro; even Auburn University's head coach Ralph "Shug" Jordan put rivalry aside to attend the service. Condolences came in from around the state and country, including personal letters and telegrams from Governor George Wallace, Governor Albert Brewer, Governor Jim Folsom, Congressman Robert E. Jones, Jr., Congressman Ben Cherner and President-elect Richard Nixon. A resolution from the Alabama House of Representatives was written into law on April 1, 1969, acknowledging the tragic loss and its impact on the populace of the state of Alabama.
"Pat lifted us to great heights on the football field, but perhaps his greatest moment of all came at the Football Hall of Fame dinner where we were receiving the highest honor, the MacArthur Bowl [trophy]. There were about 2,000 people attending the banquet, including President Kennedy, and General MacArthur himself. The crowd didn't bother Pat. Most young men would have been intimidated. He casually walked up to the microphone in front of this huge crowd and told everyone there he was very appreciative of what everyone had done for him, coach Bryant and the University.- Dr. Frank Rose, President, University of Alabama, December 11, 1968.
Following that, President Kennedy came to my room at the hotel and personally sought out Pat. I never saw the President after that [before his death], where he didn't want to know how Pat Trammell was doing'
He had character and intelligence. He lived a full life. He thrilled people from all walks of life. He was able to share more moments of happiness than most men who live one hundred years. His achievements will be as dear to my memory as all the football games we'll ever win and all the expansion we'll have in the future. But all this is part of the making of a great institution like the University of Alabama....the life and story of Pat Trammell."
Afterward, with tears streaming down his face, tough, tenacious Paul "Bear" Bryant escorted Pat's mother out of the standing room only church in Scottsboro. This is reported to be the only time that Coach Bryant had ever been seen weeping in public.
After Coach Bryant celebrated his 300th college football victory, in 1980, a reprint of an interview by author Clyde Bolton was published in The Birmingham News when he was reflecting back on his success as a football coach, leader and mentor. During this interview he was put on the spot and asked if he had a 'favorite player.' Coach Bryant named off a number of players that he thought highly of during the previous 22 years at Alabama and during his 30 year coaching career. He took a pause at that point and said, "[now] You'll have to forgive me here for getting sentimental." [sic] He then responded in turn with a deliberate answer to the question, " .... Pat Trammell was [not just my favorite player, but] the favorite person...... of my entire life."
The legacy of Pat Trammell has lived on since his death. His eventual influence and impact would be later brought to life in many non-fiction books, sports history books, documentaries, news articles and movies (one being The Bear , starring Gary Busey as Bear Bryant and Jon-Erik Hexum playing Trammell).
The Pat Trammell Award is presented by the University of Alabama Alumni Association and Department of Athletics to an outstanding Alabama football player who demonstrates the qualities of Integrity, Character, Importance of Academics and Inspirational Leadership that are representative of Trammell himself. The following is the partial list of recipients:
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