MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Bob Baumhower's name is synonymous with eating. His Aloha Hospitality company operates several popular restaurants like Compleat Angler and Bimini Bob's. To Alabama and NFL football fans, however, his name comes up when talking about defensive greats of the game. Baumhower recently shared about his college and pro football career, and how much fun he's having today.
"Coach Bryant had done some homework. He had seen me playing against one of his top offensive line prospects and said, ‘Ok, I see this guy here that we signed. Where's the guy whupping him?' which was me. I was just lucky to be in the right place at the right time," Baumhower remembered.
Baumhower's life has been blessed more than once by being in the right place. He has seen amazing results from that and hard work. He's a college football, All-American, five time National Football League pro- bowl selectee, and owner of several well-known restaurants.
"Mom and Dad gave me that mentality. You don't say can't around them. You're going to get it done no matter what, and they've always been positive, always have set the best example," stated Baumhower.
Baumhower's dad moved the family a lot while serving in the Navy, and then as a successful Kirby vacuum cleaner salesman. In the early 1970s while in south Florida, his dad considered two Alabama cities to locate his regional office, Mobile and Tuscaloosa. Contract offers were put on houses in both cities as the Baumhower family waited to see which one was accepted first.
"We ended up in Tuscaloosa. Seriously, moving to Tuscaloosa my senior year in high school was the best thing that ever happened to me," Baumhower reflected.
After high school, Baumhower was headed to Vanderbilt on a football scholarship. During his visit to Nashville, Tennessee with the Commodores coach, University of Alabama Coach Paul Bear Bryant called.
"I said to Vanderbilt Head Coach Charlie Bradshaw, look I've got to talk to Coach Bryant. He's on the phone. He said, ‘Well, uh, congratulations. I won't be seeing you again. Good luck at Alabama,'" Baumhower shared.
Despite early success at Bama during spring practice, Baumhower did not make the Crimson Tide's starting team, so he quit.
"Coach Bryant cared enough to call me into a meeting with my Dad and that meeting. Specifically, that meeting changed the way I approached things, changed the way I reacted to things. Coach Bryant gave me direction; he gave me a vision for myself, to be a winner, to be the best that you could be. Coach Bryant really did make me look at things differently, and I use the things that I learned from Coach Bryant to this very day," Baumhower said.
With a vision, Baumhower became a two- time all-SEC and, two-time college All-American at defensive tackle.
"The middle of my junior year where I started getting some attention, I started thinking maybe I can go a little further with this. Again I was very fortunate, got an opportunity to play in the Senior Bowl. The Miami Dolphins coaching staff was the coach of the Senior Bowl south team," Baumhower remembered.
Miami selected Baumhower with their second pick in the 1977 NFL draft. The Dolphins head coach was Don Shula.
"I've got to be one of the luckiest guys in the world. You play for Coach Bryant and then you go to Don Shula. Coach Shula was a guy who always had the big picture in mind and when we came in every year to training camp, we were coming in to win the Super Bowl. He had a vision for us," stated Baumhower.
Baumhower was a part of the famed "Killer Bees" defense: NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, five NFL all-pro selections, and three Super Bowl appearances in 16- NFL seasons. He said he only has one regret,
"Coming in second, it gets to you and so I still have dreams where we're trying to find a way how to win those three Super Bowls we didn't win," Baumhower said.
Miami is also where his current profession started thanks to a former Alabama quarterback.
"Partners with Joe Namath, pretty cool. He is a class guy with a good heart he worked hard to do the things that he did. He was always my hero. He's also the guy who got me in the restaurant business," shared Baumhower.
Baumhower was a partner with Namath in his Bachelor's three restaurants in Fort Lauderdale. A lunch invitation by a Dolphins teammate gave Baumhower a new vision.
"There was a line out the door with all kinds of folks blue collar, white collar, young, old, male, and female. I didn't know what buffalo wings were. I said, ‘Are you crazy? Eat chicken wings?' They were great. I said, ‘We've got to get this on campus in Tuscaloosa.' We opened a little place called "Wings and Things, a little hole, little dive, right on the strip up there," remembered Baumhower.
Baumhower opened Alabama's first buffalo wings eatery in 1981. Big name promotions with former players like Richard Todd and advertising were routine, but something was missing another important ingredient, they still needed customers.
"We started giving them away,
we started letting people try them and got them hooked. It took a couple two, three years, but it took off," reflected Baumhower.
Now some 30-years later, the little wings "dive" has evolved into 14 restaurants in Alabama. Baumhower calls it the hospitality business.
"We're in the business to make people feel good, make people happy, whether they're eating or just coming in for beverage or whatever, and it's all about hospitality. It's all about making people feel welcome. It's an amazing business when you look at all the relationships that you create. When you do a good job, and they enjoy their experience and you're making memories that they'll talk about it, it's really a lot of fun. I love it," Baumhower stated.
Baumhower's company continues to expand. It now features three different themed restaurants at the Wharf in Orange Beach. A new concept "Bob's Victory Grill" is now open in Tuscaloosa and Auburn. Baumhower said that one of his biggest rewards today is that his four kids who are all under 21, think what "Dad does is cool."
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