Norman, Oklahoma – The year was 1985 and the team was the Oklahoma Sooners. After sophomore quarterback Troy Aikman broke his leg, true freshman Jamelle Holieway took over the quarterback responsibilities. Behind a defense led by Brian Bosworth, Oklahoma defeated Penn State in the Orange Bowl by a score of 25-10. Fast forward to 2016. At the beginning of the season, it was redshirt freshman Blake Barnett who was under center in the starting role. Against Western Kentucky on September 10th, Hurts became the first true freshman to start at quarterback for Alabama since 1984 (Mike Shula). In that game, Hurts completed 23 of 36 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns without an interception in a 38-10 victory over Western Kentucky. The starting quarterback discussion was officially over.
Today, Barnett, along with reserve quarterback David Cornwell, are gone and Hurts remains. Since he has taken over as quarterback, Hurts has been named the SEC Offensive Player of The Year, Freshman All-American by USA Today and ESPN, SEC honors from both the coaches and the AP, SEC Freshman of the Year by coaches, SEC Newcomer of the Year by the AP, finalist for the Manning Award, finalist for the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award, semifinalist for the Walter Camp Player of the Year, semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award, and is included on the Manning Award Watch List.
In an AP telephone interview, Jamelle Holieway was asked about his thoughts on Hurts. Holieway said, “It’s amazing that he has the same initials. It’s amazing that he’s a true freshman. And three, black. So we’ve got three things going.” Tonight, Hurts will have the opportunity to have one more thing in common with Holieway as he takes the field against Clemson, a College Football Playoff National Championship. At that time, the true freshman will become a true champion. Roll Tide.
Tucaloosa, Ala. – The words “hero” and “goat” are often synonymous to the position of placekicker. In his time at The University of Alabama, placekicker Adam Griffith has been on the receiving end of both terms.
Many now know Griffith’s backstory thanks to a video biography produced by ESPN. Griffith was born in Poland and raised in an orphanage. At the age of 13, he was adopted by an American family from Georgia. In high school, he was a member of the Calhoun High School Yellow Jackets located in Calhoun, Georgia. Griffith was the 49th recruit in Georgia and was ranked the number one kicker in the nation. A red shirt freshman, through hard work and dedication, Griffith ultimately found himself as the starting kicker for the Crimson Tide.
During his career at Alabama, Griffith has had some memorable games. For Auburn fans, Griffith’s 57 yard attempt, that fell short and was returned for a touchdown in 2013, is a memorable victory. Of course, a runner has 10 other guys to get by on the football field, but it’s the kicker who is usually going to get the spotlight. It goes back to the whole hero/goat dynamic. In 2014, Adam played in the spring game with bursitis in his right (kicking) hip. The injury, which was not publicized, required stem cell therapy from Dr. James Andrews and a month of recovery. At the end of the 2014 season, Griffith had a “second” chance against Auburn. Griffith made the best of that opportunity by kicking five field goals and two extra points in a 29-13 Alabama victory. You can do the math. For Griffith, it was redemption. When asked about the kick that fell short against Auburn in 2013, he responded, “I forgot about that kick. I don’t even remember that kick anymore. That was before. I don’t even think about it.” Last season, with a tied game and the College Playoff National Championship on the line, Griffith kicked an onside kick which ultimately gave Alabama the momentum needed to propel Alabama to a 45-40 victory over Clemson.
According to Griffith’s high school coach, Griffith considered entering the NFL Draft at the end of last season, but chose to remain at Alabama for his final year. Griffith, who has already graduated, will suit up one final time as a member of the Crimson Tide on January 9th as they take on Clemson for the College Football National Championship. Last week, Griffith made his lone field goal attempt against Washington. Griffith will be on the field against Clemson next Monday and win or lose, at the end of the National Championship game, Griffith will take his place in Alabama Football history. For Alabama fans, Griffith has been a part of many memorable moments. Griffith’s story is one of success. On January 9th, he’ll be ready to play. You can “Mark It Down”.
Glendale, Arizona – It’s been said, “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.” On Saturday night, as Clemson took on Ohio State, one Clemson player decided to make a move that was well short of being a good sportsman. In the second quarter, Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel was on the ground when Clemson’s Christian Wilkins intentionally grabbed Samuel’s where he shouldn’t have. Unfortunately for Wilkins, the inappropriate move was caught on camera. After the game, Wilkins said, “I was being silly, and I apologize for that. It’s stuff you do when you are competing, and I know it’s not a good look. I apologize for that and I shook hands with him after the game. There were no hard feelings.” Samuel’s said of the incident, if he had felt it, he would’ve been rejected. What Wilkins did is much more than simply, “not a good look”. It’s unsportsmanlike. Wilkins says, “It’s the stuff you do when you are competing.” For him, that might be true (up until this past Saturday), but for those who have worked hard to compete in the right way, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Coach Swinney responded to questions about the incident by saying, “I’m good with his apology.” Fellow teammate, Ben Boulware, had different thoughts on the matter. He said, “You get very comfortable around each other. I know there’s going to be that one person: ‘Well, I played football and never did that.’ You either sucked at football, you had no friends in the locker room, or you were the person that went in the bathroom stall to go change because you were scared to shower with the team.” Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel disagreed with Boulware’s statement by saying, “We don’t rock like that this way.” While there are many players across the sports world who play by the rules and compete in an honorable way, there are those among them who do not. With Wilkins’s apology, I hope that he will now make the necessary adjustments.
When we had our small business, I wanted to give an award to local players who exemplified good sportsmanship. At the beginning of the football season, coaches were asked to give us the name of a player who displayed good sportsmanship on the field throughout the season. At the end of the season, we would go to the football banquet and recognize the player with a plaque and a gift certificate. As a former player myself, how young people played the game was important to me and I wanted to show that I appreciated them. I’m still in contact with a couple of those former players and I’m proud to say they have done well post-athletics.
There is another quote that is used often. It is a paraphrase of a Charles Marshall quote from Shattering the Glass Slipper. The quote is, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” In the modern era of cameras everywhere and playback, people are watching more than they are not. Clemson’s Christian Wilkins found out the hard way. Wilkins did apologize, and I’ll take it at face value in hopes that he does better. Wilkins has one more game this season to prove himself as Clemson will take on Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship game in Tampa, Florida, on January 9th. In response to Wikins extracurricular activities on the field, Alabama’s Cam Robinson had this to say, “They better not try me like that. That’s all I got to say.”
I would like to encourage athletes to practice good sportsmanship. Don’t get in a position where you have to defend an unsportsmanlike action. Play the game the way it’s suppose to be played. By all means, compete. Give the game your all, but do it in a way that you can be proud of and at the same time be a good example to those who are watching. If you put that type of play into practice, win or lose, you will be a real champion. You can “Mark It Down”.