Gary Dale Carlyle was the first of his race to star for the Alabama A&M Bulldogs in 1971-74. His coach was Louis Crews schooled at A&M, Yale and Ohio State.
Carlyle now calls Guntersville his hometown, as he lives at Warrenton. He is the father-in-law of Wes Long, a former Guntersville Wildcat quarterback.
We asked him what it was like that first day of practice for a Sand Mountain boy from Sylvania at a historically black college. He said Coach Crews was always straight up with him. Coach told him, "If you're good enough, you'll play."
Carlyle played his way to captain of the 1974 team, the President's Cup, the Alabama A&M HOF, the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference HOF and the Dekalb County Sports HOF. The late Coach Raymond Weaver said that Gary Carlyle was one of the toughest players ever from Dekalb County.
Gary stated that in the early days at A&M, the slang everyone was shouting "What's happening now." This was from the 1970s TV sitcom "What’s Happening Now."
One day at the cafeteria, he shouted "What's happening now." Everyone was silent for a few seconds and someone shouted back "You got it, man, you got it."
Gary had been accepted as a Bulldog. He remembers as a freshman being called up to the varsity as a blocking fullback. Going gang busters, he went crazy blocking about four guys on one play. The problem was they were his offensive players.
The players started exchanging pleasantries with him but “Big Oats,” one of the offensive linemen, said, "Give him a break, to him, we all look alike.”
Carlyle went on to coach at Lee of Huntsville, Geraldine, Gurley and Fultondale. He then moved to administration as principal at Sylvania.
Playing on the '73 team, he was a teammate of John Stallworth, NFL Hall of Fame; Ronnie Coleman, longtime Houston Oiler; Ronald Fox, Birmingham Vulcans; Ocie Howard, Chicago Fire and a couple of Guntersville Wildcats, "Big Mike" Harden and David Higdon.
That season, Harden kicked a field goal to win the Magic City Classic 10-7 over Alabama State. After Carlyle’s final season in '74, another Guntersville Wildcat, Mike Horton in 1975, became a 1,000 yard rusher for the Bulldogs.
This fall, Carlyle’s grandson Conner Flanagan, a sophomore, will be playing with the Guntersville Wildcats. This is the beginning of a whole new era in the life of Coach Gary Carlyle.
Another interesting thing about Wildcat football this fall will find Coach Carlyle seated with his quarterback Jason McCarty from his coaching days at Fultondale. Jason is the father of Guntersville’s returning quarterback Cole McCarty.
Gary had great admiration for A&M Coach Crews and for years following the death of Coach Crews, Mrs. Crews would mail him a Christmas card, always remembering one of Alabama A&M's best, Gary Carlyle!