100 in 100: Alleghany County’s Jerry Duncan, Bama’s tackle eligible

Bear Bryant gave the Sparta High star a scholarship sight unseen and then made him part of his revolutionary play

Alabama football players — including Sparta’s Jerry Duncan (77) — hoist coach Paul "Bear" Bryant to their shoulders after the Crimson Tide finished an unbeaten, untied season with a 31-0 triumph over Auburn on Dec. 5, 1966. (Charles Kelly / AP Photo)

North State Journal’s 100 in 100 series will showcase the best athlete from each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. From Alamance to Yancey, each county will feature one athlete who stands above the rest. Some will be obvious choices, others controversial, but all of our choices are worthy of being recognized for their accomplishments — from the diamond and gridiron to racing ovals and the squared circle. You can see all the profiles as they’re unveiled here.

Alleghany County

Jerry Duncan

Despite rushing for more than 1,700 yards as a senior at Sparta High in 1962, Duncan’s only college offer was from tiny Georgetown College in Kentucky. That is until his high school coach Grey Bowles ran into Bear Bryant at a coaching clinic. Bowles talked the Alabama legend into checking out his young star, and without ever seeing him either in person or on film, Bryant gave Duncan a scholarship.

It turned out to be a wise decision.

After spending his first two years with the Crimson Tide bouncing between several positions, Duncan found his niche as an undersized offensive tackle who went on to play for two national championship teams and earned All-SEC honors in 1966 while blocking for the likes of Joe Namath and Kenny “The Snake” Stabler. Bryant did, however, find a way to get the ball into Duncan’s hands occasionally by using him as the centerpiece of his famous tackle eligible play. The young North Carolinian, whose family was in the dairy business, caught four passes his junior year and five — with a touchdown — as a senior. He became such a weapon that rival Johnny Vaught of Ole Miss fought to make the tackle eligible play illegal.

“Coach Bryant wouldn’t let you be ordinary,” Duncan told Eli Gold for the book “Bear’s Boys.” “That spilled into everything and affected us all in so many ways.”

After earning his undergraduate degree at Alabama, Duncan stayed in Tuscaloosa where he served first as a graduate assistant coach, then spent the next 24 years as the sideline reporter for the Crimson Tide radio network in addition to day job as a stockbroker. He was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.