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FRIDAY FLASHBACK: Arenas Punt Returns Sparks Tide Past FIU



Sept. 11, 2009

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Javier Arenas remembers his first collegiate touchdown just like it was yesterday.

The true freshman from Tampa, Fla., fielded a punt at the Alabama 35-yard line and raced 65 yards for his first collegiate touchdown that propelled Alabama to a 38-3 win over Florida International on Oct. 28, 2006 at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

“The kicker had a few short kicks that day, so I was focusing on fielding the ball,” Arenas recalled earlier this week. “That one particular play was a short kick and I came up and fielded the ball and I ran toward the sideline.  I was headed toward the sideline just to run and then everything started to open up and everybody was setting great blocks, so I just followed them up the sideline and scored.”

Not a bad way to celebrate your birthday either.

“I was a rookie, it was my first year and I don’t even know if I was starting, and it was my birthday too,” Arenas added. “It was a fun experience.  I got my feet wet so to speak.  I’d say when you score your first touchdown that explains it all.  I guess you can say I sort of established myself that day.  I still had a lot of work to do after that, and still have to work hard, but I got my feet wet and got into the game a little bit.”

For four years, Arenas has also given Tide fans reason to celebrate with electrifying punt returns that have re-written the Crimson Tide record books.

One game into his senior season, Arenas has 96 punt returns for 1,274 yards and six touchdowns.  He is Alabama’s career leader with 1,274 yards and six TDs and ranks second all-time with 96 career punt returns.  Greg Richardson (1983-86) owns the record with 125 career punt returns.

Last year as a junior, Arenas had 41 punt returns for 650 yards and three touchdowns.  He set school records for punt return yards and touchdowns, while his 41 returns rank third on the school’s single-season list.  Arenas own Alabama’s top two single-game return marks with 153 yards against Mississippi State on Nov. 15, 2008 and 147 yards against Tulane on Nov. 15, 2008.

He also owns Alabama record for most kickoff returns in a single-game, single-season and career.

Arenas’ first career punt return for a touchdown sparked a 28-point second half and gave the Crimson Tide the win in the only other meeting with the Golden Panthers.

Since that first meeting, Arenas has added five more punt return touchdowns for the Crimson Tide. Here is a look at each touchdown:

Dec. 28, 2006 – 86-yard punt return in fourth quarter vs. Oklahoma State in Petro Sun Independence Bowl … set Alabama bowl game and Independence Bowl record for longest return.

Nov. 3, 2007 – 61-yard punt return in fourth quarter vs. LSU at Bryant-Denny Stadium that gave the Tide a 34-27 lead with 7:33 left in the game.

Sept. 6, 2008 – 87-yard punt return in first quarter vs. Tulane at Bryant-Denny Stadium … set school record for punt return yards (147) … breaking Harry Gilmer’s record of 122 yards against Georgia set on Oct. 25, 1947 … fourth longest punt return in school history.

Nov. 15, 2008 - 80-yard punt return in third quarter against Mississippi State at Bryant-Denny Stadium … broke his own school  record for punt return yards in a single game.

Jan. 1, 2009 - 73-yard punt return in third quarter vs. Utah in the 2009 Sugar Bowl … sixth career punt return for a touchdown and second career punt return in a bowl game.