Mineral Wells Index
By Tony Eierdam | firstname.lastname@example.org
Former National Football League All-Pro linebacker and former professional and college coach Jack Pardee was in Mineral Wells on Thursday speaking to former Texas A&M Aggies students at one of several statewide “Aggie Muster Day” events that take place each year on April 21, Texas Independence Day.
The event was held at the Veteran of Foreign Wars Post 2399 Hall, hosted by local businessman Jack Powell.
Pardee (Texas A&M ‘57), a member of the now-famed “Junction Boys,” coached by legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant, told a story of his days in the intense summer camp in Junction. A book and a movie, "The Junction Boys," tells the story of Bryant’s 10-day August practice camp, but Pardee’s recollection of those days were even more chilling than the book or movie.
“We had 110 guys go to Junction for camp, and only 33 came back,” Pardee recalled. “And we finished that season with only 27 guys. During that camp, Bryant kept telling us this will prepare us for the fourth quarter.”
Pardee said as a 17-year-old he didn’t fully understand what Bryant meant, but eight years later, when he was suffering from cancer which he would beat, he understood the coach was also preparing his players for life after football.
“Coach Bryant wanted to find out who wanted to pay the price to not only play football, but to win,” Pardee told those in attendance. “He wanted us away from the campus where we wouldn’t be distracted. It seemed like we were at Junction for two months but it was 10 days.
“The main thing he stressed – and I have carried this with me more than anything else – is how do you win in the fourth quarter. He said anyone can play football when you feel good and everything is going your way. He asked us how are we going to react after been dazed or knocked out, or if the temperature is 110 and you are tired. How do you win then, he asked us.
“He called that getting ready for the fourth quarter. I later understood he was also getting us ready for life. In life – and I went through cancer – we all lose parents and some lose jobs, and that’s what he meant by the fourth quarter. Are you going to give up and quit? Are you going to give up if you lose your job?
“That’s what the fourth quarter is. When I was 25 and had four kids and found out I had cancer and wasn’t sure if I was going to live past another couple of years, I started identifying more with what Coach Bryant was talking about.”
Pardee, the only six-man player ever to coach and play in the NFL, then went on to talk about his “Junction Boys” days. He said he has felt a special bond with all of the guys he went through that camp with, and that how two years later it led to the Aggies going undefeated and winning the Southwest Conference title.
“I was very fortunate to get to play college football coming out of tiny Christoval,” he said. “The unique thing about Junction was that, after all of those guys who quit, it left a core of players that didn’t win a game that year. Worst record Coach Bryant ever had. But two years later we were undefeated.
“When you are involved with a team with a turnaround like that you get a special bond. We still have regular get-togethers, and I see most of the guys once or twice a year.
“But I never thought about quitting. If I did, where would I go, Christoval? Hey, I worked hard to get out of there.”
Pardee said the popular movie depicting those 10 days in Junction is close to being accurate.
"I thought it was very accurate,” he said. “Some of the players are a little bit upset about it.
"All of those things didn’t happen to everybody, but all of those stories happened to an individual whether they got the names right or not. It was a tough camp. I would not want to go through it again.”
Pardee, who lives near College Station, said he met Powell when he was a senior at A&M and Powell was being recruited to play football for the Aggies. He said he is honored to be asked to speak on this day. Aggies celebrate Muster each year at this time. They say Muster is a time to look to the past, present and future, not only to grieve but to reflect and to celebrate the lives that connect Aggies to one another.
“A&M has a of great tradition, but The Muster, to me, is one of the more meaningful traditions we have,” he said. “When Jack (Powell) was getting out of high school, I was a senior and I helped recruit him. He asked me to speak at Muster, so I am here. I am honored to be a speaker at Muster. And I will answer for the guy who recruited me, Willie Zaplac.”
Powell concluded the event by saying it was the biggest Muster crowd they have had in recent memory, and he also thanked local Aggies for their contributions to the local scholarship fund.