I started to title this blog, Survivors in Death Valley. Then I realized that ‘survivor’ really wasn’t the right word. I am not even sure if I can find the right word to describe what I saw last night. I went back and I read my last blog and I realized that I was pretty darn accurate in my predictions. LSU tried to shut out AJ, and they succeeded. They succeeded for most of the game, except the last minute and a half. I was watching the game, in my living room, with my head in my hands. I had jumped up, I had yelled, I had paced…as I am sure every other Alabama fan in the country did, nails chewed off and all. Les Miles pulled out every trick in his hat, and they worked. LSU succeeded at shutting down the number one team in the nation, the team that has been on top all season long. Then, with less than two minutes left in the game, Bama got the ball back. I said to myself or maybe out loud, I don’t remember: “Okay, we got time left, we can pull this off. I have seen Bama do this before, they can do this!” And so while everyone watching the game was on the edge of their seats, I was thinking “What would the Bear do? What can Saban do? What can I pray for that will help this team come back?” Then what happened, as I watched the game come to end, was nothing short of pure perfection. The plays being called were similar plays to what we saw LSU run most of the night. Kevin Norwood was suddenly right on the first down mark waiting on the pass, Barrett Jones and the offensive line pushed back just a little bit harder, and AJ made perfect passes. Nickel and dime screen passes all the way down the field hitting the first down mark, and then a quick pass off to TJ Yeldon and TOUCHDOWN ALABAMA!!!!!!!!!! We jumped, we cheered, and we even cried.
I took to twitter and Facebook and wow, I read a lot of negative stuff. Of course everyone is an armchair quarterback including myself, so I can’t say too much about the screams of ‘Run the ball Bama!’ and some of the other things the rest of us was thinking during the game. What made me angry was the “no tears in football” comments. That might be a saying for baseball, but that does not ring true for football. I was ticked.
After that amazing drive that ended with a touchdown, as well all watched, AJ McCarron made his way to the bench, he sat down and cried. Cool, calm, perfectionist AJ McCarron with his head in his hands, sitting on the bench, shoulders hunched over. It was a side of him we had never seen. He tried to shield his face from his teammates and the cameras, but it was no use. You could literally see the emotion pouring out of him. His teammates, one by one, coming by to congratulate and console him. He just couldn’t contain his emotion, and neither could I! My heart went out to him. For so many reasons, I just felt for him. He knew so many people were counting on him, and he didn’t want to let anyone down, so he dug deep, he did his best and rallied his team and they won.
As I watched this, I thought about how he didn’t want to disappoint his family, his team, his coach, or his fans. I thought about the story my Dad has told me a hundred times about Alabama football and what it takes to be a winner. It was the story about Coach Bear Bryant and how he put his team through 10 days of hell at football camp and how a lot of the players quit. He told me that they went in with 2 bus loads of boys and came back in 1. That the boys who weren’t committed, didn’t make it through and quit, and how the boys that cried when they lost a game and refused to quit, are the ones that Bear Bryant knew had enough passion to be nothing but the best. I know it to be true because they later made a movie about it. He took those boys on to win a National Championship at Texas A&M. The Bear later came to Alabama and led them to MANY National Championships. Gene Stallings was on that team that went through that football camp and he too, led the Tide to a National Championship in 1992.
My point is, the players who play their hearts out, with everything they got…the ones that leave everything out on the field, the ones who cry at a loss or even on the verge of one…those are the people with real passion. I looked over at my husband and I said “now that is a boy that is going to be successful in life, at anything he does because he has that much passion and drive to succeed.” He agreed.
Rarely do we see Coach Saban smile, but when AJ met up with him after the game, he looked up and gave a smile that made it all the way to his eyes. He was very proud, and it was obvious. AJ, still a bit emotional, made a heartfelt statement about the pressures of playing football for Alabama. He gave props to his team, saying they made his job easy and being a part of this team was a blessing.
I have no doubts at this point we are looking at a National Championship team. If anyone else had any doubts, I think they have let those go, even if they don’t want to admit it.