Among the hundreds of student-athletes who played under legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant at the University of Alabama, few represent the crimson and white as well as former Alabama running back Major Ogilvie.
“Wearing that red jersey has always been a big motivating factor for all of those who have played football at the University of Alabama,” Ogilvie said. “I think it’s just the tradition of even going back all the way to the 1920s when we went out to those Rose Bowls and beat teams that we weren’t supposed to beat.”
Born and raised in Birmingham, Ogilvie began playing football with the Hoover school system before his school was absorbed into the Vestavia school system. He then took his football talents to Mountain Brook where he and his teammates won the 4A state title in both 1975 and 1976.
For his junior season in 1975, Ogilvie’s head coach at Mountain Brook was Robert Higginbotham, who played for Bryant in the late 1960s as a defensive back. According to Ogilvie, it was Higginbotham who started the process of him preparing to play at Alabama.
“You know playing for Mountain Brook and playing for the state championships you began to take the step of getting on a big stage,” Ogilvie said. “None of our games were on TV, you can talk about stadium size, you can talk about how obviously everybody in the community was excited about what we were doing but all of a sudden not only at Alabama does it go Southeast but everywhere you went when you traveled the country everyone wanted to know how coach Bryant’s team was going to do this year.
“There’s always been a huge following with our program, not only in the state but also nationally.”
After graduating from Mountain Brook, Ogilvie played for Alabama from 1977-1980, racking up accolades and contributing to three SEC championship teams in 1977, 1978 and 1979 as well as two national titles in 1978 and 1979.
In addition to his championship rings, Ogilvie was named First-Team All-SEC in 1979 and earned second-team honors in 1980. He was also named and Academic All-American in 1979.
For all of his accomplishments, Ogilvie repeatedly credits Bryant and his coaching staff for molding him into the man he is today. That being said, his transition from high school to college was not an easy one. Ogilvie, like most other players, were living by themselves for the first time in their lives after relocating to Tuscaloosa.
Ogilvie recalled a humorous story involving Bryant on his first day at the Capstone.
“I never will forget the first day we got to the university,” Ogilvie said. “Coach Bryant had a big meeting with the freshman, the 1977 class. I never will forget the sharing of how he kind of put things into perspective in terms of academics and athletics and wanting to be a better person spiritually, mentally and physically. He talked about the things he felt like and had observed over the years that would be helpful to us and having a successful career at Alabama. At one point, he told a joke and nobody laughed and he looked up from the paper he was reading from and he said ‘I just told a joke and I normally get a funnier response.’ So we all broke out laughing.
“You know, it just set the tone for really having a really good experience and I was blessed to be around so many good folks. Coach Bryant made sure we were surrounded by good people and got an education and had a great time on the football field and I could go on and on.”
While he played primarily as a running back, Ogilvie’s arguably most-memorable play came in the form of a tackle. In the second quarter of the 1979 Sugar Bowl against Penn State, Nittany Lions Rich Milot intercepted a pass thrown by Alabama quarterback Jeff Rutledge. It looked like Milot was going to return the pick for a touchdown, but Ogilvie came screaming across the field and tackled Milot short of the goal line, saving a score.
The game remained a close one for the duration, ending with the Crimson Tide’s legendary goal-line stand and resulting in a 14-7 national championship victory.
To this day, Ogilvie recalls that game as the toughest he every played.
“That was great, great football,” Ogilvie said. “Hardest-hitting football game I’ve ever played in my life. They had a great team, we had a great team. We were blessed at the end of the game that when the clock ran out we had more points than they did. I remember coach Bryant talking about how it had been a long time since he could remember as many big plays or momentum-changing plays. I mean every play it just seemed like it was constantly changing the face of the game.”
In 1988, Ogilvie married his wife, Jayne Ogilvie. The couple have three children, Morgan, Mary Riley and Collier. All of them graduated from the University of Alabama, and Morgan served as a backup quarterback for the Crimson Tide under coach Nick Saban from 2008-2011.
After graduating from the University of Alabama with a degree in accounting in 1980, Ogilvie moved on to working in the construction industry in Birmingham. After over two decades, Ogilvie then moved on to work at Ready Mix USA in 2003, where he remains to this day working in business development as well as serving other functions.
At Ready Mix USA, Ogilvie found himself returning to his Bryant connections once again.
“Ready Mix USA was started by Paul Bryant, Jr. and Marc Tyson, coach Bryant’s grandson,” Ogilvie said. “It’s been fun to have that connection again. The Bryant family has been a big part of my life and has had a huge positive impact on it.”
Before the current pandemic, Ogilvie frequented construction sites as part of his job. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, he said that his trips have dramatically reduced in number.
“Pre-pandemic I was going to 100-120 different places a month and now I go to five or six,” Ogilvie said. “It’s changed there but we’ve been blessed. The impact has been tough on a lot of folks but we’ve been blessed. We haven’t suffered from the virus and we’ve been able to work the whole time.”
Despite still having to work in his office, Ogilvie says he and his family are taking the necessary precautions.
In 2014, Ogilvie was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and is what he considers to be one of his greatest honors.
“That was as special of a recognition as I’ve ever received from sports,” Ogilvie said. “It allowed me to kind of think back on all the people that helped me and all the people I played with and with every player there’s thousands of people that help you get there from teammates to coaches to principals, teachers, Sunday-school teachers.
“You really get an opportunity in that to think about all of those people, but for me it was really an opportunity to say thank you to all those people who helped me and helped my family.”