Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 26, 2015
Ray Dubose said his two sons, Mike and Jimmy, constantly played football growing up in Opp.
“He played football most all of his life, from the time he was a little bitty fellow on up,” Ray Dubose said.
Although Jimmy is older than Mike, that never stopped the younger of the Dubose boys jumping into a game and competing against his older brother and his friends.
Rick Moody, a former teammate of Mike’s at Opp High School and current assistant football coach at Andalusia High School, said playing the game consumed much of Mike’s time as a child.
“They (Mike and Jimmy) came from a family that lived and breathed football and its traditions,” Moody said.
Mike confessed that he did indeed spend a lot of time playing football as a youngster.
“My brother and I played together most of out childhood even though he was a coupled of years older,” Mike said. “Not only my brother, but the people I grew up with were older than me so I had to compete at a higher level and I believe that helped both us to be better players.”
Robert Waller, who coached Mike during his junior high school days, said Dubose was serious from the moment he stepped onto the gridiron until he left for the lockerroom.
“He was about as serious and tough-minded as he is now,” Waller said. “You’ve heard of people that are coachable? Well, he is one of those.”
Despite his love for the game and his talent, Mike Dubose decided to give up football in junior high school.
“He went home in the 7th grade, I think, and told his daddy that he was going to quit,” Waller said. “His dad said he (Mike) would have to get a job and wouldn’t have any free time on the weekends. The next day he was back at football practice.”
Dubose said his father guided him back to the practice field because he thought it was the best thing for his son.
“Between the 7th and 8th grade, in spring practice, I moved up to the varsity,” Dubose said. “It was a big step and probably the best thing that even happen for me as a player, but it was a big adjustment.”
“I think my dad encouraged me to play football because I was giving up for the wrong reasons. It taught me that when times are tough you don’t give in. There’s no telling what would have happened had I not gone back,” he said.
The decision to play football would obviously be the right one for Dubose, as he went on to star at Opp High School and was a key member of the 1973 University of Alabama national championship squad.
Waller said it was a special treat to watch Mike line up on defense and terrorize the opposing teams.
“You always see those type players that, if they weighed such and such, they would kill somebody?” Waller said. “That was Mike.”
Alabama was one of the few colleges that recruited Dubose, but Waller said he could have almost played in the NFL right out of high school.
“He could have played anywhere if they would just give him a chance— and Alabama did,” Waller said. “He made of lot of big plays up there including several game-winning or game-saving tackles.”
Moody said Dubose became an instant “Bear Bryant player” once he arrived in Tuscaloosa.
“He played with a lot of pride,” Moody said. “When he went to Alabama he just became a Bear Bryant and Alabama person. Even when he was at other places, you could tell he was an Alabama football man.”
Smith, who also played with Dubose at Opp High School, said Mike was natural.
“Mike was very gifted with God-gifted talent,” Smith said. “He was a competitor and it was hard for some people to be on the field with him.”
Lowell said he and Mike were both linebackers for the Bobcats, but he didn’t mind being overlooked at times because Mike was such a team-oriented player.
“I was in his shadow because I played linebacker too,” Smith said. “He was a very intense player, but he wasn’t always worried about his performance. He was always encouraging his teammates and very supportive. He was more concerned with the team the he was with himself.”
While some coaches didn’t give Dubose an opportunity to play college football, former Alabama assistant coach (and later Auburn head) Pat Dye dropped by the school one day to talk about Mike with coach Smith.
“He excelled at linebacker,” Smith said. “He was the best linebacker in the whole area his junior and senior years.”
“Pat Dye came by one day and I was showing him some film from the Enterprise game,” Smith said. “He (Dye) said, ‘Well, he’s already better than anything we’ve got (at Alabama) now.”
Mike’s father remembers his son as being one of the smallest players in the Southeastern Conference.
“He was the smallest defensive end in the SEC when he played at Alabama,” Ray Dubose said. “But, it’s not always the size and he had the want to go and get it.”