Selma’s Ralph "Shug" Jordan had already held a college head coaching job (basketball at Auburn) when he volunteered for World War II in 1942, interrupting his coaching career for his country.

Little did Jordan know that he would become part of the largest amphibious landing in world history. The project was top secret, so none of the men knew they would be heading toward Berlin via the beaches of France.

On June 6 of this year, it will have been 80 years since Shug Jordan and 175,000 other allied service members crossed the English Channel and went ashore in France to a welcoming committee of heavy German fire.

Jordan had already survived fighting with the U.S. Army in North Africa and Sicily. In the D-Day invasion, he was wounded and later awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. He was treated successfully, enabling him to fight in the Pacific at Okinawa.

Decades later, one football legend who had also fought in World War II made a startling statement about Shug Jordan and his combat service. Alabama head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant” said:

“Shug has more courage in his little finger than I’ve got in my entire body.”

A breath-taking assessment.

Both men had served during World War II. Bryant’s statement takes on added meaning because his ship had survived a ramming that killed 13 and injured 50. 

Bryant’s statement about Jordan was a unique tribute, from one legend to another.

After returning stateside, Jordan sandwiched in a year of coaching football at the Miami Seahawks of the All-American Football League. He then again became the Auburn head basketball coach from 1945-1946. Then, the Georgia Bulldogs hired him away from 1946-1950.

Jordan graduated from Auburn in 1932, where he played three sports: football, basketball, and baseball. In 1951, his alma mater called him home, and he took his forever job as Auburn's head football coach from 1951 to his retirement in 1975, with a record of 176-83-6. 

Jordan's career at Auburn included several highlights. The team went 10-0 in 1957 and was named National Champions by the Associated Press. Their quarterback, Pat Sullivan, won the Heisman Trophy in 1971. They upset archrival Alabama in 1972 in the famous “Punt, Bama, Punt” game.

Coach Shug Jordan mentored hundreds of student-athletes into successful citizens. His service in WWII and at D-Day was part of something much larger than himself and much larger than football.

What started at D-Day continued to Berlin, defeating Hitler and the Nazis. Ralph "Shug" Jordan was a part of liberating Europe, safeguarding Western Civilization, and enabling Americans to live the next 80 years in freedom. So far.

Eighty years. Let us never forget.

Thank you, Coach Jordan and all the other heroes who served.

Jim ‘Zig’ Zeigler’s beat is the colorful and positive about Alabama. He writes about Alabama people, places, events, groups and prominent deaths. He is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at

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