TUSCALOOSA - Over the years, Clem Gryska lost one letter in his last name, but never lost his passion for football at the University of Alabama.
Gryska, a Steubenville native with ties still in the area, passed away last week at the age of 84.
"Because so many people omitted the 'z' when spelling our last name Gryszka, Uncle Clem eventually spelled his last name without it," said niece Camille Miller, a Toronto resident.
He went to Alabama in 1945, joining coach Frank Thomas' last great team, which won the 1945 Rose Bowl.
Gryska played for the Crimson Tide until 1948 and then spent 32 years on the football staff under four coaches, including being the recruiting coordinator for Paul "Bear" Bryant.
After stepping down from the football program, he spent 18 years as an administrator and "legend in resident" at the Paul W. Bryant Museum.
"Being part of Alabama football has been the greatest thing that ever happened to me," Gryska said in a news release issued by the Bryant Museum shortly before his retirement two years ago, two years short of 50 years of service at the university. "My family, my wife and children and grandchildren have all enjoyed it, too, thinking that I was a part of it."
The son of Polish immigrants grew up in Steubenville and lost most of his right hand in a meat grinder accident at age 12. He originally signed with Northwestern University.
Gryska served as an assistant coach at Huntsville High School and Emma Sansom High School after graduating from Alabama. He eventually returned to Huntsville high in 1954 as head coach.
Six years later he went back to Alabama as Bryant's recruiting coordinator and eventually served in recruiting and administrative roles under Alabama coaches Ray Perkins, Bill Curry and Gene Stallings before joining the museum staff in 1993.
"It's so sad to hear the news," said UA Director of Athletics Mal Moore, who coached with Gryska at Alabama for many years, said in an article in the Tuscaloosa News. "Clem was a lot of fun to be around. He gave everybody support. He and (former UA assistant coach) Dude Hennessey were very close. It was always fun to gather in Clem's office and reminisce and laugh. He will be missed by every player that joined the team in those days."
"He was a father figure to every player that came through here, a kind man," Moore said. "He was so involved with each freshman class, recruiting the players. He'll be missed by many. He had great connections to the high school coaches in the state. He did a super job of helping to coordinate our recruiting efforts through the years.
"He coached the freshmen every year. Everyone was scared to death and homesick. He was the father figure. He was dearly loved by every player."
Gryska was married to the late Alice Scott. The couple had three children - twins Ted and Debby, and another son, Greg.