Countdown to Kickoff
FAMILY REUNION: Alabama?s Nick Walker and Vanderbilt?s Chris Nickson Meet in SEC Opener



TUSCALOOSA, Ala. ?? The 2007 Southeastern Conference football opener between the University of Alabama and Vanderbilt University will be a reunion for Crimson Tide tight end Nick Walker and Commodores quarterback Chris Nickson.

Walker and Nickson are second cousins.  They were also teammates at Pike County High School in Brundidge, Ala., that captured the 2003 Class 3A state championship as prep seniors. Walker caught 67 passes for 1,028 yards and 15 touchdowns en route to All-State honors. Nickson accounted for a state-record 65 touchdowns and was named “Mr. Football” by the Alabama Sports Writer’s Association.

“He is my second cousin,” Walker said of Vandy quarterback Chris Nickson.  “Every time we go home we are around each other because of family events.  It’s going to be real big to play against him again.  I hope we come out on top.  That’s all I want is to come out on top.  No matter what happens, no matter how good or bad I do, I just want to win.”

Walker said the two have not communicated much since fall camp, but when they do chat, it’s rarely about football.

“I haven’t really talked to him much this year,” Walker said.  “We haven’t talked that much.  When we talk we just talk about life or something like that.  What we have been up to.  Our conversations really don’t go to football that much.  We just have different stuff to talk about, until this part of the season. Then we talk jokes back and forth.  I haven’t gotten a chance to talk to him yet but I’m pretty sure that phone call will come soon.”

Walker said that the majority of the people in Brundidge, a town of around 3,000 people in southwest Alabama, were planning on making the six-hour trek to Nashville to see the game.  A large contingent came to Tuscaloosa last season for the first collegiate matchup between the two former prep stars.  Alabama won that game 13-10 on freshman kicker Leigh Tiffin’s 47-yard field goal with seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

“It’s a bigger crew than last year,” Walker added.  “There are three charter buses coming to Nashville.  They are all coming to the game.  It’s going to be real exciting playing in front of our home fans again; especially playing against someone that you played with in high school.”

Walker also claims to be Nickson’s biggest fan, but just not for three hours this Saturday afternoon.

“I root for Chris,” he said.  I always hope he has a good game.  Just like Saturday.  I would never hope something bad on him.  I hope he has a real good game.  I just hope we win.  I will root for him because of the love and respect I have for him.”

*Alabama practiced for two hours in full gear Wednesday afternoon as preparations continued for Saturday’s SEC opener at Vanderbilt.  The Crimson Tide worked on red zone, third down situations and reviewed its work from Monday and Tuesday’s sessions.

*Alabama’s weekly call-in show, “Hey, Coach!”, hosted by Tom Roberts, will air from 6:30-7 p.m. (CDT) this Thursday night from Bob Baumhower’s Wing’s Sports Grille in Tuscaloosa and will be immediately followed by the “Nick Saban Show,”  which will air from 7-8 p.m. (CT) live.

*The Alabama-Vanderbilt game will be televised regionally by Lincoln Financial Sports, with Dave Neal, Dave Archer and Dave Baker. The kickoff time is set for 11:34 a.m.  The game will be shown on 67 stations in the nine-state SEC region, plus ESPN GamePlan (DirectV Channel 778).  The game will not be made available on ESPN GamePlan in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina or Tennessee.

*Alabama sophomore linebacker Cory Reamer (Hoover) read to a group of students at Noah’s Ark Preschool in Northport Wednesday morning.

*Alabama head football coach Nick Saban met with the media following Wednesday’s practice.  Here are some his comments:

(On having one game under your belt):
“Well we were pleased to get the first game under our belt.  We got a lot of kinks out.  I was pleased with the way the players competed in the game and the physical toughness that they played with, trying to set a tempo and an attitude of how we want to play.  Now the challenge is going to be can we do that on a consistent basis?”

(On game week practices):
“We are really going through kind of the first week of what is truly a game week. We tried to simulate it as much as we could last week.  We are trying to get everybody zeroed in and focused on what we do every day and their conviction to get better and do it right all week; knowing that if you do it right all week it going to help you have the confidence that you are going to do it right in the game and focus on what you need to do to execute to play winning football.  That is why you practice.”

(On Vanderbilt)
Vanderbilt is certainly an outstanding team.  They have a great quarterback (Chris Nickson) and a great receiver (Earl Bennett). They play hard on defense and they don’t make many mistakes.  I think preparation in a game like this is really a key because of the kind of football team they have.  They are well coached and they don’t make a lot of mistakes and it becomes a premium for you to execute at the same level.”

 (On Vanderbilt receiver Earl Bennett):
“I think he has special ability.  He has great hands.  He is a very competitive guy and gets in and out of breaks good.  I also think they do a great job of featuring him, moving him around.  It’s hard to get a handle on where he is going to be.”