Hundreds paid their respects Wednesday to a Tuscaloosa football legend who died earlier this month.

But he wasn’t a player. Instead, Walt Gary was among the Crimson Tide’s biggest fans, and he’s been chatting up coaches and players just about every game week since he was in middle school and Gene Stallings with the Tide’s head coach.

“One person could not have this kind of influence without it being God’s will,” said mother Betsy Gary.

Walt often met with Alabama players and coaches on Thursdays before a game, giving a score prediction for the upcoming bout.

“Sometimes the predictions were, like we’d be playing Johnny Manzel — the No. 1 offense in the country — and (Walt’s prediction was) 45-nothing Alabama,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “The optimism was fantastic.”

The celebration of Walt’s 36 years of life was held inside the Zone of Bryant-Denny Stadium.

“He always wanted to be on the Jumbotron, and now his pictures are flashing up there,” Betsy Gary said. “He never suffered, so we are thankful for that.”

Betsy Gary said she’s been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support.

“It’s given us strength and helped us through some difficult days,” she said. “We have of course heard from players that were here years ago who Walt became friends with and from people I don’t even know. We appreciate everything. All of our family is humbled by it.”

Walt was a phenomenal fixture of the Alabama program, Saban said, and it won’t be the same without him.

“Everyone in his family said thank you for doing what you did for Walt, but Walt did way more for me than I ever did for him,” Saban said. “Because there were many Thursdays I came down those stairs and there was something on my mind or practice didn’t go the way it was supposed to. Always made me glad to see Walt every Thursday, because I always walked out that door much more spiritually uplifted than I came down those steps and it was all because of Walt and his passion.”

There’s just one word to describe his legacy, Betsy Gary said.

“Unbelievable. Unbelievable all he had to go through,” she said. “He had so many health issues, it’s unbelievable the attitude he was able to keep and unbelievable the grace that God has given us to get through the difficult years.”

Betsy Gary said a scholarship for special education majors is being set up in Walt’s name at the university in his honor.

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