By Corey Hoodjer
UA Media Relations
If you ask a Crimson Tide football fan for one word that defines Alabama football, it would not take long to get a decisive response: tradition.
Indeed, tradition is what separates football at Alabama from everyone else. The rich and storied past gives every player in a Tide uniform and every fan decked out in crimson and white a connection to something very special.
Nothing embodies that proud tradition more clearly than the number of sons who have followed in their fathers’ footsteps to the Capstone to suit up for the Tide on Saturdays. More than maybe any other program, Alabama’s roster seems to boast
more sons of former players each season.
In 2006, that group of players has already proven to be special for more than its bloodlines. Of the eleven members of this year’s Crimson Tide squad who are sons of former players, several have made a dramatic impact on the field this season.
Most prominent on the list are the Castille brothers, Simeon and Tim, who are the progeny of former All-American defensive back Jeremiah, who played under the founder of most of Alabama’s storied tradition, coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.
Tim has been the Tide’s fullback and short-yardage specialist the past few seasons, having rushed for 16 touchdowns in his career. He scored the first touchdown of the 2006 season in the opener against Hawai’i when he plunged over from three yards in the second quarter of the Tide victory.
Simeon, one of Alabama’s starting cornerbacks who also handles punt return duties, helped seal a Tide win over Vanderbilt in week two. Castille picked off two Commodore passes, helping Alabama earn a 13-10 win in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Another son of a former player who has a special place in Tide lore is true freshman placekicker Leigh Tiffin. Leigh’s father, Van, is the man whose foot launched perhaps the most famous kick in Alabama football history in the 1985 Tide victory over hated Auburn, when his 52-yard kick as time expired lifted Alabama to a dramatic victory in the Iron Bowl.
Leigh has seemingly inherited his father’s flair for the dramatic. Tiffin, who has been the Tide’s starting kicker for the first two games after an injury sidelined returning placekicker Jamie Christensen
, came up huge in the team’s first two victories. He is 5-of-6 so far in the 2006 season, including a 47-yard game winner late in the fourth quarter of the Tide’s 13-10 win over Vanderbilt two weeks ago.
For Tiffin, the benefits of having a legendary father have extended much farther than superior genetics.
“My dad has helped me from the beginning,” Tiffin said. “He was really the one who taught me how to kick and worked with
me on a regular basis. A lot of kicking is working on mechanics on your own, and he was always there to help me.”
All kickers must learn to handle pressure. The son of a legend, however, must not only deal with pressure on the field, but with heavy expectations off of it. Thankfully for the younger Tiffin, bearing the burden of being the Tide’s starting placekicker has been a part of his upbringing.
“I have always tried to be my own player,” Tiffin said. “There are some expectations out there because of who my father is, but he has always told me to just go out there and be myself and try not to let the pressure get to me.”
Another legacy on the current Tide roster has worked in a bit more obscurity than the Castille brothers or the newest placekicking Tiffin. Jake Jones
, a freshman wide receiver from Mountain Brook, also has Alabama football in his family. His father, Joey, played under Coach Bryant and Coach Perkins at UA before becoming a highly successful coach at Mountain Brook High School prior to being hired as the head coach at Birmingham Southern.
Like Tiffin, Jones was fortunate to have the guidance of a prominent father on his side.
“My father is really the reason I have a scholarship here,” Jones said. “The instruction he gave me from junior high on, teaching me the fundamentals of the game and the right things to do, were huge. Most kids don’t have that advantage.”
The legacy of Alabama football is not entirely on the field. No son of a Tide player can escape without a story involving Coach Bryant. “The story I heard most was about my dad waiting outside of Coach Bryant’s office to ask for an autograph after he was done playing,” Jones said. “But he was so intimidated by him that he just stood in the hall. He never did get that autograph.”
Tradition and Alabama football is synonymous. Generations of Tide players and coaches have made it so. For 11 players on this year’s team, furthering that tradition is family business.