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Alabama's Oldest Letterman, Don Salls, Dies at Age 101

Don Salls played for Alabama, served in the military during World War II, coached Jacksonville State and inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame

Don Salls, the Alabama Crimson Tide's oldest letterman, died Sunday afternoon. He was 101 years old. 

Salls, who was born June 24, 1919, in Trenton, New Jersey, played for Frank Thomas and the Crimson Tide from 1938-42 as a fullback and defensive player. 

He was a part of the 1941 team that Alabama claims won the national championship even though it went 9-2 overall, 5-2 in the Southeastern Conference. It closed out the season with a victory over Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.

Like with so many others Salls had his life interrupted by World War II, and served in the military.  

Per the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, which inducted him in the Class of 1992, Salls was stationed in Europe. After winning battle stars in Belgium and France, he was wounded (shot in the hand and then diagnosed with a broken back), presented the Purple Heart and sent home with the rank of Captain. 

He returned to the University of Alabama for postgraduate work and in 1946 became the head coach for Jacksonville State. 

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Salls retired in 1964 as head coach and as Jacksonville’s all-time winner with 97 victories. 

In 18 seasons, Salls turned out seven conference championship teams, produced eight Little All-Americans, sent 12 players to the pro ranks, appeared in three bowls, and never lost a homecoming game.

On June 24, 2019, the day he turned 100 years old, Salls was a special guest at the Paul W. Bryant Museum, which held a birthday party for him on the university campus. 

"I would have liked to play for Nick Saban," he said. 

In addition to the ASHOF, Salls is a member of the Jacksonville State University Athletic Hall of Fame, the Westchester County, N.Y., Hall of Fame and the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame.