By: Jon Finkel
It’s New Year’s Eve and just as the ball is dropping and the champagne is popping on the east coast, the Cotton Bowl trophy is being raised and the dance moves are popping in Arlington, Texas, as the University of Alabama’s football players celebrate their semi-final playoff victory on the field at AT&T Stadium.
But while the game is over and Saban’s squad turns their sights to Glendale, Arizona and the upcoming National Championship Game, the positive impact his team had on the Dallas community this past week, and the Children’s Medical Center in particular, should be equally remembered.
From a team sing along of Aladdin’s “A Whole New World” to signing ball caps and taking pictures, for a brief moment during their hectic week in North Texas, the Crimson Tide were able to put smiles on young kids’ faces and touch the hearts of children struggling with illnesses.
“We appreciate the staff who works with these children,” Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban said about the trip. “They take the time to cure, prevent and help these young kids have a better quality of life.”
Alabama defensive back Eddie Jackson, who had several tackles in the semi-final game, echoed the sentiment, while drawing the distinction between the players’ on-field persona and off-the-field personalities.
When talking about how he’d describe his team’s defensive line in preparation for their game against Michigan State, he didn’t hold back on the level of intensity they need to excel and become national champions.
“I call them savages, like a bunch of caged animals. You go out there and you just see them. They’re jumping around. They’re hyped. They’re pumped,” he said. “Just watching those guys go out there and do what they do, it really affects you to come out with your ‘A’ game and play your best.”
Yet in the real world, without helmets and pads and a #3 ranked Michigan State opponent trying to keep you from realizing your dreams of a title, it’s a completely different story.
“You never know how much you can affect someone’s life just by going in there [the hospital] and saying a few words to the kids or just spending a little time,” Jackson said. “It really affects us. We have a God-given talent to come out here and compete and play this great sport of football. And to give back, I mean, you always should give back. I was raised on that. That’s one of the big things we preach on this team when we see a fan or someone wanting to take our picture. We make sure to stop and talk.”
Alabama Linebacker Denzel Devall agreed and was equally affected by the experience at Children’s Medical Center.
“You always want to give back to everyone,” Devall said. “So whenever we have a chance to go to hospitals and visit little kids and stuff, we know it makes their day. It makes our day because we see the opportunities that God has given us to go out and play football. It’s just a happy moment.”
No doubt the happy moments in the community will continue next week as the Crimson Tide head to Arizona to play for another national championship.
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