This Saturday the Alabama football program will honors its departing seniors when the Crimson Tide host the Tennessee-Chattanooga Mocs. The 2013 Alabama senior class is a special group that will go down in history, regardless of how the season ends.
Several of the honorees are actually fifth-year seniors that have been a part of the Alabama program since its very first national championship under Nick Saban in 2009. AJ McCarron, Kenny Bell, Kevin Norwood, Tana Patrick, Anthony Steen, Ed Stinson and Kellen Williams were all redshirt freshmen in 2009 as they watched that incredibly talented team go undefeated and win the first national championship at Alabama since 1992.
Seniors like AJ McCarron and Kenny Bell have joked that they, along with Norwood and Eddie Lacy, came in together and spent 2009 on the scout team “burning” the heralded 2009 defense. More seriously, Nick Saban himself has said that talented group did help make that defense what it was. McCarron was even named the second string quarterback before the BCS National Championship, and it has been acknowledged many times that had anything happened to starter Greg McElroy that Saban would have burned McCarron’s redshirt and put him in the game.
Watching that 2009 team obviously made a huge impression on those seniors, but watching the failure of the 2010 team may have made an even more impression. Saban has said on numerous occasions that he feels the 2010 team may have been his most talented team ever, but complacency, lack of attention to detail, and maybe even a sense of entitlement from some of the younger players all played a part in that team losing three games and missing out on the SEC Championship for the first time in three years.
Of these seniors only McCarron, Bell, Norwood, Stinson and Mosley played extensively in 2010, and Mosley was the only starter. Mosley and McCarron have both cited that 2010 season as an example this group has used to remain focused and never lose sight of the ultimate goal.
Alabama fans – much like the players and coaches – will have a chance to reflect during Senior Day on the accomplishments these young men have brought to the school and its fan base. They have left memories in the minds of hundreds of thousands of fans that will not soon be forgotten. Whether it was Nick Saban biting AJ McCarron’s head off and “spanking” him on the sideline in 2010, or Saban jumping into the arms of that same player three years later after an emotional win, this group will be remembered for decades to come.
We will remember the heartbreaks, like Cade Foster’s missed field goals in 2011 against LSU, and will remember his almost perfect senior season as well. We will remember witnessing McCarron break down on the sidelines after lifting his team to a game-winning drive in 2012 against LSU.
The sting of losing to Johnny Manziel in 2012 will be remembered alongside the elation of taking him down in 2013. We will remember seldom-used seniors like Tana Patrick and his heroics on the goal line against LSU in 2013; and a young Kevin Norwood taming the “Honey Badger” in 2012 BCS Championship game. Just as the freshman class of 2008 will always be remembered as that first group of young players that lifted Alabama to national prominence again, this group of seniors will be remembered for keeping it there.
Now with only two more regular season games and hopefully two postseason games to come, this group of seniors have the opportunity to leave a legacy unlike any other group has left at any school. Three undisputed national championships in three straight years are unprecedented. These seniors are well on their way to reaching that goal.