Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
For The Birmingham Times
Jeff Fisher, head coach of the United States Football League’s Michigan Panthers, is familiar with Legion Field.
He was a reserve on the 1978 University of Southern California Trojans squad that took on Coach Bear Bryant and the Crimson Tide at The Old Gray Lady.
Fisher had a field-level view of coach John Robinson leading USC to a 24-14 victory over Alabama. That game pitted teams who would ultimately be crowned co-national champions.
Fisher’s recent return to the stadium wasn’t for a game but a youth football clinic featuring some of his Michigan Panthers and members of the league’s Philadelphia Stars.
A day later, players from the Birmingham Stallions joined the Tampa Bay Bandits in showing young players the skills of the gridiron.
More than 225 youngsters – including two girls – signed up to receive guidance and instruction from the professionals who will call the Magic City home when the league kicks off its inaugural season on April 16 when the Stallions face the New Jersey Generals.
For Fisher, being in Birmingham brought back fond memories of football days gone by.
“I have a special place in my heart for football, Alabama football,” he said. “My son played at Auburn, my coach played at Auburn and my daughter went to Auburn.”
Fisher knows about football in the South. He’s the man who led the Houston Oilers in their transformation to the Tennessee Titans based in Nashville where there was nothing but NASCAR and music.
“We integrated into the community and the rest is history in Nashville,” he said. “That’s our hope, that we start that relationship and there’s no better way to start it than with the kids clinic behind us.”
After the recent Saturday clinic, he asked pro players and coaches who had attended a similar camp in their youth. Everyone raised a hand.
“We’ve only been here a couple days and everybody’s still getting to know each other,” he began. “Two days into it, we have a youth clinic and camp. We were gonna bring five guys and I just had brought up my DBs (defensive backs) over here and they’ve had more fun.
“Anybody that’s been associated with this game probably started playing at some point (at an event like this).”