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A player’s perspective of Steve Sloan

FILE – Alabama coach Bear Bryant, left, talks with his former star quarterback Steve Sloan, right, after practice in Miami for the Orange Bowl game New Years’ night against Nebraska, Dec. 29, 1968. Former college coach and administrator Sloan, who played quarterback and served as athletic director at Alabama. has passed away. He was 79. Sloan died Sunday, April 14, 2024, after three months of memory care at Orlando Health Dr. P. Phillips Hospital, according to an obituary from former Alabama sports information director Wayne Atcheson. (AP Photo/Harold Valentine, File)

  • Bobby Dye remembers the former Ole Miss Head Coach as a great man of faith who made a lasting impact on his players.

I think every athlete can agree that there are people in their past, most likely a previous coach, who influenced not only their decisions about sports but about life as well. There’s just something about a “good coach” that every athlete respects, admires, and remembers. Some coaches were mean as snakes, but others were much more approachable. Coach Steve Sloan was the latter. Back in our day, we showed up to practice expecting to get chewed up and spit out by our coaches, but that was not the case with Coach Sloan. He wore his heart on his sleeve, which was extremely rare. 

In 1977 at the age of thirty-three, Coach Sloan came to Ole Miss after a very successful coaching career at various other Division 1 schools. He brought along with him Coach Romeo Crennel and Coach Ron Pope who both later became NFL coaches and the legendary Strength Coach Johnny Parker who went on to coach numerous Super Bowl teams. An assistant coach who did not follow him to Ole Miss was the future Hall of Fame Coach Bill Parcels. Coach Sloan strived to surround himself with the best, and he always encouraged everyone to do their best. 

Coach Sloan’s time at Ole Miss was not as successful as everyone had hoped. When he resigned, he tearfully said, “These men deserve better.” He was so overcome with emotion that someone else had to finish reading the statement on his behalf. He truly had a heart for his players. He cared about each one of us individually. His actions and words made it clear that he was a man of great faith, and that God (then family) should always come before football.

Coach Sloan may not have had a successful impact on the football program at Ole Miss, but the exact opposite can be said regarding his players. Since the news of Coach Sloan’s passing, I have received countless text messages from my former teammates – grown men in their mid-sixties – expressing their gratitude to a man who they have not seen or talked to in over forty-five years. Every single one has recalled the admirable attributes that Coach Sloan instilled in us and in turn we have passed on to our children and for those of us who became coaches to our players as well.  

It’s often said that the character of a man can be judged by what his closest peers say at his death. Some will say Coach Sloan was a “good coach”, but to me and my teammates, he was a GREAT MAN! Being a great man will always be more important than being a great coach. 

To leave you with a laugh, I will close with this example of Coach Sloan’s quick-witted humor.

After an afternoon battle against his Alma Mater (Alabama), Coach Sloan’s former Coach Bear Bryant made a jab to his close friend, “I sure wish Steve Sloan was the Ole Miss quarterback instead of John Fourcade.” For which Sloan quickly replied, “I wish Coach Bryant had played defensive end for Alabama instead of E.J. Junior!”

Thank you for the impact you had on our lives. Love you, Coach!

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