In Elmwood Cemetery, where Bear Bryant was buried this afternoon, there was a wreath of flowers with a card that read, "From Your First Team."
Bear Bryant won most of his record 323 games at the University of Alabama. But his first team was at Maryland in 1945. It was Bryant's first job after leaving his duties as an officer at the Navy preflight school at Chapel Hill, N.C.
Joe Drach, one of the players on Bryant's first team, talked today about that team and about Bryant.
"We all had a few weeks left in the Navy," Drach said, "and Bryant was going over the coaching offers he had. He got offers from Alabama, Vanderbilt and a lot of other places, but Maryland was the only school which offered him the head job.
"Since a lot of us still had college eligibility, Bear told us about all the offers and said, 'Why don't we all go together somewhere? We'll have a hell of a team. You guys select whichever school you want to go to and I'll go along with you.'
"So, since Maryland was the only place he could be head coach, we selected Maryland," Drach said. "And the next year was great, too. We went 6-2-1.
"But he left after one year and there were a lot of mixed emotions about him. He went on to bigger things (at Kentucky) and we were stuck at Maryland without him. I was disappointed for a long time that he did that. But it turned out all right because that success led to Maryland having its first bowl team in 1949 when we went to the Gator Bowl."
Jack Faber, a former faculty chairman of athletics at Maryland, said Bryant left Maryland because it didn't then offer employes contracts.
"The president of the university told Bear he'd have a job as long as he was president. Bear wanted a contract, but Curly Byrd said no.
"Things changed quickly after that at Maryland," Faber said. "We started giving contracts."
Drach says he thinks he is the only person alive who saw Bryant's first and last games.
"I went to the Liberty Bowl (in December) and I waved to him," Drach said. "He waved back and said come on down. He must have had more than 2,000 players and he remembered every one of their names.
"Once, I hadn't seen him in a long while, and I was walking a dark hallway, with a hat on and my coat collar turned up. He said, 'Hi, Joe.'
"It would feel great to hear him say that again."