Carlisle recalls his 'interview' with the Bear

So, I come back to the museum this afternoon from a legislative reception and find Hall of Famer Jack Carlisle working as a volunteer at the ticket counter. That’s always a treat.

So Jack starts telling stories and naturally I start listening. I’d be a fool not to. And Jack takes me back to 1967 when he was coaching at Murrah and Paul Dongieux was his star senior linebacker being recruited by everyone in the South and lots of others, as well.

Bear Byrant wanted Dongieux bad and I mean bad,” Carlisle said. “So did Ole Miss and LSU. It was kind of a three-way battle.”

Jack Carlisle.

Would you be interested in coaching our freshman team?” Riley asked.

Yes sir, I would,” Carlisle answered.

Back then,” Carlisle told me, “who wouldn’t have been interested in working for Bear Bryant? I mean, he was the Bear.”

It was agreed that Bryant would meet with Carlisle after the Murrah-Meridian game that was being played in Meridian later that week. (Both Meridian and Murrah were undefeated.) Bryant was scouting the game in person.

Meridian beat Murrah and Bryant and Carlisle met afterward at a Meridian motel. Yes, Bryant said, he sure did want Dongieux to play linebacker at Bama.

They had a friendly discussion with Bryant lighting one Chesterfield cigarette after another.

Finally, Carlisle got up the nerve to ask Bryant the question he had been wanting to ask since Riley mentioned the job opening and Bryant’s interest in Carlisle.

Coach, I was just wondering, if Dongieux decides to go to Ole Miss or LSU, will you still want me as your freshman coach?” he asked.

Bryant, said Carlisle, smiled, took a deep drag off a Chesterfield and slowly exhaled before answering.

Jack,” said the Bear, “coaches are a dime a dozen.”

Said Carlisle all these years later, “I pretty much had my answer.”

The rest of the story: Dongieux signed with Ole Miss and Carlisle stayed at Murrah. Years later, he coached the Ole Miss freshmen and then the offensive backfield at Ole Miss. Carlisle later became the head coach at East Tennessee State. He remains one of the most successful high school coaches in Mississippi history.

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