Some things you just can’t make up.
All of us in Alabama and most of the civilized world know that on December 1st, Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts came off the bench for an injured Tua Tagovailoa to lead Alabama to a come-from-behind victory over Georgia in the SEC championship game.
What’s truly remarkable is that this happened against the same team, in the same building where he was benched in favor of Tagovailoa at halftime in last year’s national championship.
Jalen in a few short minutes became a true Alabama legend.
Here’s an athlete who started as a freshman and won 26 games for Alabama over two years and then all of a sudden was out as quarterback.
Most any other top athlete would have fallen victim to anger and bolted—but not Jalen. He remained a team player, showed tremendous loyalty, patience, and leadership and became an Alabama hero.
But something else happened on December 1st at a different football stadium to another Alabama football team that was truly remarkable.
The UAB Blazers beat the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders in the first rematch in college football history to be played on the same field and in the same stadium in back-to-back weeks to win the Conference USA Championship.
The hero in this case is UAB head football coach Bill Clark.
In 2013 the Blazer football team won 2 games and lost 10. They were 1 and 7 in Conference USA play.
Clark became head coach the next year and was in the process of turning the program around when UAB made the unexpected decision to shut down its football program.
Coach Clark could have easily been crushed and made other career plans.
But Clark hung in there and waited patiently as the Birmingham community rescued the program.
When Coach Clark and the Blazers came back on the field in 2017—with no returning players–no one took them seriously.
And why should they?
Since 1996 when they qualified for Division 1-A, no UAB team had won more than seven games.
But in 2017 and 2018, after two years without football, the Blazers set a program record for wins (8-5 and 10-3) and won the Conference Championship.
Coach Clark has shown the same level of loyalty, patience, and leadership as Jalen and should also be recognized as a Birmingham and Alabama hero.
As Coach Clark wrote in ComebackTown before the beginning of this season, “I knew Birmingham was a great city…I’m a big believer in Alabama. Getting here, I learned what a gem Birmingham is. I don’t think people really know how good our people are and what a blessing it is to be here. …I would go immediately back to our team and share that story. That’s the kind of thing I want our kids to feel. These people did fight for you. They did believe in you. They didn’t give up on you. They gave their own personal money just so we could be here.”
Coach Clark didn’t give up on UAB or Birmingham.
Some die hard Alabama fans may roll their eyes when I compare talented tier one Alabama quarterbacks with a UAB football coach—but you have to admit that all three have the same heart, loyalty and grit.
We have Tua. We have Jalen. And we have Bill.
You just have to love football in Alabama!
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David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).
Invite David to speak to your group about a more prosperous Birmingham. firstname.lastname@example.org