Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Shark - Fading Memories of Alabama JV Football

My little brother Lee and me after AL/Marion Military
This is per a request and I will not bore anyone with a lot of these stories- this is a 27 year memory so make allowances for human pride and error.

In the fall of 1982, the University of Alabama played a limited JV schedule. Becuase of the redshirt rule, most of the talented freshmen were not available and created a team made up mostly of walk-ons with a sprinkling of scholarship guys.

There was almost no practice for these games. I do remember us running a team period where we ran a few wishbone plays, but there was no installation or technique teaching for the offense.

Our first game was at Marion Military Institute.

Now, you have to understand that these teams were playing ALABAMA- and they were jacked to the max.

We had spent the week running Georgia Techs Pro I offense. Our beloved 'Head Coach' was Jack Rutledge- possibly the most loved man in that program. The offensive coordinator was 'Famous Amos' Jones and it seems like I remember Rich Wingo and Murray Legg coached the defense.

First, the defense was solid. Wingo was really stoked that Lee Clements was 'just knocking the hell out of people' and we played great defense in every game.

Now to our poor offense. As a coach now, I appreciate how woefully unprepared we were for a game situation. It was not anyone's fault.  Our first possession, we broke the huddle and I immediately called timeout because we only had 10 men on the field. The problem was that I had talked Coach Amos to run a Pro-I bootleg on 1st down because it was one of the few scout team plays that actually worked that week. So we had 1 less back and no wide receiver.

As we stayed in the huddle on the field waiting for the chaos to be sorted out, I realized it was going to be a long night. My center looked at me and asked, "who do I block?".

See, we always practiced against Alabama, who ran a 50 defense (3-4 today) so there was always a noseguard. Marion ran a split 40 that had two 'three techniques' and no noseguard.

This was not going to be fun at all.

We ran the boot on the first play and I was sacked for about a 10 yd loss. In fact I was sacked enough times that game to end up with -77 yards rushing for the game.

The low light of the game was where I got mad and kept spinning out of tackles. I spun , stepped, got hit, spun stepped, got hit- and if my memory recalls it right- I broke about 7 tackles and still lost 5 or 6 yards. After the play, the official marking the ball said , "WOW".

A positive and a lasting memory. Joe Smith, a scholarship wide receiver actually dressed out and we found a play that worked. I would get the snap, take a 1 step drop, and throw it to Joe before every Marion player hit me. And Joe actually caught it.

Hoss Johnson was waiting on me as we came back to Bryant Hall after the game. 'I was listening to y'all on the radio- oh my goodness, you got killed.'

They also posted my Official NCAA stats on the board in the dining hall. I had 75 yds passing and -77 yds rushing for a total of -2 yds total offense. It was highlighted in yellow with the note 'WAY TO GO'! Coach Mal Moore just laughed out loud when he saw me.

Now to the shark. We had a walk-on player that he and everybody called 'The Shark'- someone help me with his name. All I can remember is that he was a receiver and one of the most unusual characters I have ever met.

He was from Florida or Oklahoma (but I think it was Florida). I asked him what brought him to Alabama, and he pointed at the tower without saying a word.

He took white athletic tape and doctored up his practice stuff including making an 'S' on his jersey. He did push-ups throughout the whole practice. He must have done over a 1,000 push-ups everyday.

And I never saw him, EVER, catch a pass. I would throw him the ball during warm-ups and he could not catch. He actually was a tall, decent looking receiver. He could run, ran pretty routes, but the ball hit the turf every pass.

So in this game vs Marion, because the defense was playing great- we had the ball and a chance to win in the 4th quarter. I think we returned a punt to our side of the field. On 3rd down we called our last timeout.

I went to the sideline and was talking to Coach Amos. 'The Shark' stepped in our huddle.

He said, "Shark Deep Sure Six"- kind of like a hollywood moment.

Coach Jones looked at him and asked, 'What did you say?"

Shark spoke with firm confidence and enthusiasm, "Shark Deep Sure Six, Sir"

Coach Jones grabbed him and screamed 'SIT DOWN SHARK'.

And that was the last I ever remember seeing the shark. We lost. My white uniform had blood on the jersey and pants ( Nowadays I would have been ejected for the blood rule).

An interesting side note. My wife, Lisa, was at that game watching her high school boyfriend who played LB for Marion. I would meet her 6 months later.

All she can remember was the Marion crowd talking about how that Alabama Qb was being beat to death.

But I have loved writing this because it is such a fun memory! OK guys, chime in- where is my memory only legend or gaps I have forgotten.

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