Monday, September 06, 2004
By Matt Hooper
UA Media Relations
They've shared experiences, good and bad. They've shared joys and disappointments, hugs and punches. They've shared meals and rooms; they've shared blame and they've shared parents. They've gathered at family reunions and shared stories; they've pulled out family photo albums and scrapbooks and shared memories.
A football team, in itself, is a family. It is a brotherhood. Teams live together, eat together and travel together. On football Saturdays they dress alike. They gather together in silence and reflection in one locker room, and they leave for the playing field, together. Once they enter the game, they sacrifice themselves to protect their brothers, to better the family. And win or lose, they walk off the field, together, a family. And for several members of the 2004 Crimson Tide football team, the concept of family runs much deeper than wearing the same color jersey.
There are blood brothers within the Tide's football brotherhood, three sets to be exact. And then there are cousins and younger brothers who follow in the crimson footsteps of their kin. There are championship rings that clasp their fathers' fingers, their uncles' fingers, and crimson jerseys and helmets that rest on their grandfather's mantles. Invisible, yet familiar, footprints lead out of the bowels of Bryant-Denny and spill onto the turf.
These are family legacies, already established, that continue to move forward, a new chapter being written. Freshman Simeon Castille will try to establish himself in the defensive backfield, a feat accomplished by his father, former All-American and current team chaplain, Jeremiah Castille. Simeon's brother, Tim, a sophomore fullback, is well on his way to establishing his own legacy, having earned a starting nod throughout most of his freshman campaign, an accomplishment rarely fulfilled at the Division I level.
And speaking of legacies, Justin and Taylor Britt, freshman and junior respectively, are among the thousands who were affected by last years' powerful image of big brother Wesley, a senior lineman now, pumping his fist to motivate his teammates as he lay on a stretcher on the field, just moments after a gruesome leg injury ended his season in one of 2003's most pivotal games. Now they must uphold the bar of toughness and grit set stratospherically high. Junior linebacker Freddie Roach also carries a similar responsibility: teaching little brother Will, a receiver, what it takes to succeed at the Capstone.
Family lineage can breed pressure just as easily as motivation. Left guard Evan Mathis must be careful to correctly execute his blocking assignments, lest he get a call from uncle and former Tide defensive lineman Bob Baumhower. Pete Cavan and Johnny Johnston, the fathers of tight ends David Cavan and Clint Johnston, each suited up under legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, as did Johnston's uncle Donny. Starting quarterback Brodie Croyle knows what it's like to have a father play under "the Bear:" John Croyle chased down opposing quarterbacks as a defensive end from 1971 to 1973. Brodie also has a kindred spirit under center in brother-in-law John David Phillips. Phillips was a signal-caller for `Bama from 1994 to 1998. Even his sister, who is married to Phillips, has a Tide legacy. She played basketball for Alabama.
Backup quarterback Spencer Pennington has a relative with Crimson tradition as well: brother Jeremy played under Bryant disciple Gene Stallings from 1993 to 1996 as an offensive guard.
Some players' relatives have accomplished the ultimate goal of every college football team, a national championship. Defensive end Anthony Bryant can easily catch a glimpse of greatness simply by visiting cousin Sam Shade. Shade won a ring after helping the Crimson Tide defeat Miami in the 1993 Sugar Bowl, 34-13.
But of all the members of this year's Tide team, no one has more family connections than split end Matt Miller. Brother Marc was a safety from 2001 to 2002, father Noah played linebacker in 1973 and grandfather Floyd was a tackle from 1948 to 1949 under Coach Herald "Red" Drew. More than 56 years of Crimson Tide football memories course through each Miller family get-together.
It's a brotherhood, Alabama football, and at the end of the day, after exhausting practices and grueling exercise sessions, it all comes back to family. It's all about sharing experiences both on and off the field. For many, it will be this way for a lifetime. For a select few, it already has been.