Former Alabama football coach’s daughters honor his legacy

Mary Claire Wooten, Contributing Writer

When Ray Perkins, a star receiver for the Crimson Tide in the ’60s and Paul “Bear” Bryant’s successor, passed away in December 2020, his daughters Rachael and Shelby wanted to honor his legacy.

Sisters Rachael and Shelby Perkins launched the brand Eighty Eight, named for their father’s football number while at The University of Alabama. The brand focuses on inspiring others to take life head-on.

They came up with the idea around June and launched on Oct. 20. 

Eighty Eight’s merchandise, which includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, stickers and more, is adorned with messages that encourage people to embrace everyday and live life to the fullest.

Rachael and Shelby Perkins’ main goal for Eighty Eight has always been to make a difference the way their father did. They plan to do that with the brand’s slogan: “Your story matters, so what’s it gonna be?” 

“Our dad is known to others as coach Ray Perkins, the football coach, the tough guy, but to us, he was Dad. He was inspiring, selfless and truly lived his life each day like it was his last,” Rachael Perkins said. “Our dad did way more than coach football; he changed people’s perspective on life and always gave others opportunity.”

In November, the brand will release a video series. Every month from November to February, the series will have a different theme, with topics like mental health, body image and self-love. Spearheading the series will be stories surrounding grief and advice for both grievers and nongrievers. 

“Stories of heartbreak, grief, hard times and also times of joy. We wanted to have a safe place for people to come share their stories, and for people to listen to other peoples’ stories so they do not feel so alone,” Rachael Perkins said.

The sisters strive to honor their father, but also to create a positive experience for those who stumble across the brand.

“People don’t have a personal connection to Eighty Eight yet, but they will once they see what this movement is. Like Rachael said, it is not just a number. It is way more than a number,”  Shelby Perkins said. 

Since the launch, the sisters said they have received overwhelming support. 

“Within the first few hours we had over 100 orders,” Rachael Perkins said. 

Rachael Perkins said the support was just the tip of the iceberg, and underneath the emotions that followed was “a breath of fresh air.” 

“There were so many days that we thought we would never make it through the thickness of grief; building this business as a family has allowed us to feel his presence, even more so after the launch,” Rachael Perkins said.

One day, they hope to travel to churches, schools and groups to share the story of Eighty Eight and their grief. 

“It sounds silly, but we want people to see how short life is. We want people to live their lives to the absolute fullest, know they are never alone no matter what their struggles may be, and realize they too can live how our dad did,” Rachael Perkins said.