Brown loved the Crimson Tide as a young fan

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas coach Mack Brown, like many young college football fans in the South who grew up in the 1960s, had a love affair with Paul "Bear" Bryant's Alabama teams.

The Crimson Tide claimed national championships in 1964 and 1965 and came close in 1966, but were denied despite posting an 11-0 record. Brown was taking notice of the program from his home in Cookeville, Tenn.

Brown's grandfather, high school football coach Eddie "Jelly" Watson, helped stoke the passion in Alabama football in his young grandson.

"Alabama was my favorite program growing up," Brown said. "I watched every game."

As a high school senior, Brown was recruited by current Alabama athletic director Mal Moore, who was then an Alabama assistant coach.

"I got to sit in Coach Bryant's office as a 17-year-old," Brown said. "They were playing Missouri in the 1968 Gator Bowl and he asked me if I could visualize myself running back punts for them. That was pretty good stuff for me at the time."

Despite the sway of the Alabama tradition, Brown followed his older brother, Watson, to Vanderbilt where both played football. Brown later transferred to Florida State, where he graduated.

But his interest in Alabama has never diminished. It was one of three programs that were his grandfather's favorite teams, along with Georgia and Texas.

"Coach Bryant and [former Texas] coach Darrell Royal were the Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden of their day," Brown said. "Younger coaches looked up to them. I wanted to play there, coach there."

And that's what makes the Jan. 7 game at the Rose Bowl so special to Brown.

"This is a matchup that excited me," Brown said.