Alabama halfback Johnny Mack Brown became a cinematic cowboy because he took a screen test while at the Rose Bowl. The Tournament of Roses turned to Hollywood figures to serve as grand marshal of the Rose Parade, including 8-year-old Shirley Temple, the box office queen of the 1930s.
A biographer of legendary Tennessee coach Gen. Robert Neyland listed the movie stars sprinkled among the Volunteers fans at the 1940 Rose Bowl: Bing Crosby, Deanna Durbin, Clark Gable and his wife, Carole Lombard, Jack Benny, and on and on.
"We scarcely got to see the game," said Emily Faust, wife of Tennessee assistant coach Hugh Faust, "with all the fans coming to ask the stars for autographs."
Natalie Wood starred in a movie called "The Rose Bowl." Jerry Seinfield, in his animated "Bee Movie," saved the flowers of the world by taking all of the flora at the Rose Parade to pollinate them.
"George Lucas, who doesn't do public events," Flinn said, referring to the creator of Star Wars, "he'll come to be grand marshal of the Rose Parade, as Gregory Peck did, because his parents brought him to the parade and the game when he was a little boy."
In his 1974 autobiography, Alabama coach Bear Bryant recounted the excitement of his week as a player at the 1935 Rose Bowl:
"I remember there were movie stars all over the place. … A couple guys had cameras, and posed me with this good-looking, big-bosomed blond in a tight sweater. The blond was very attentive. She said her name was Lana Turner and she was just getting started in pictures. A starlet. She asked me what my plans were, but about the only place I could have taken her was to church because I was broke again."
Turner went on to become a major movie star. An aside from the 60-year-old coach revealed the 21-year-old within: "I still have that picture."
And then, Bryant explained what the Rose Bowl meant to him.
"It had all seemed like a dream come true to me -- the thrill of being invited, of going, of getting to play in front of all those people -- an ordinary football player among great players. All those things are rich in my memory."
No matter what age, the men who played in the Rose Bowl talk about it with a verve that makes them young again.
Seventy-five years after Washington lost the 1926 Rose Bowl, Huskies lineman Herman Brix, 94, came to see the Huskies practice for the 2001 game and told them he thought about the loss every day.
Six decades after he played in the 1943 Rose Bowl, Hall of Fame halfback Charley Trippi of Georgia told author Tony Barnhart, "I played in three bowl games, four college all-star games, and a pair of NFL championship games. But nothing has ever compared to playing in the Rose Bowl."
The same goes for coaches. Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has been a college and pro football coach for nearly 30 years. He has coached in one Rose Bowl, with Purdue in 2001.
"My biggest memory of that whole ballgame wasn't the game," Chaney said. "It was two nights before. They entertained the staffs in the press box of the Rose Bowl. And I will never forget … looking down on the field, and they [had] just painted Purdue on that one half and Washington on the other half, and how absolutely gorgeous, it was just perfect. It was like, 'My God! It just can't get better than this moment right here in a college coach's life. It just can't.'"