Football Practice Just Part of a Busy Day in Shreveport
SHREVEPORT, La. The University of Alabama football team put in a full day in Shreveport on Thursday. The day began with the annual Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) breakfast and concluded with a visit to Children’s Hospital, where head coach Nick Saban and a number of Tide players visited with children, signed autographs, posed for pictures and distributed Crimson Tide football caps.
“It takes a lot of maturity to stay focused when you have all the distractions that you have at a bowl site and a bowl game and all the things are things the players deserve to enjoy,” Saban said. “We had an FCA breakfast this morning and we took a group of guys to Children’s Hospital after practice. This is all a great experience for them, but when its football time we have to be able to zero in on that as well.”
Following the FCA breakfast several members of the Crimson Tide football team joined several members of the Colorado football team for “Lift Up America Day” at the Louisiana Fairgrounds. The Crimson Tide and Buffaloes, along with Independence Bowl representatives, distributed food to some 30 local agencies, for needy people in the Shreveport-Bossier City area.
Coach Saban and 32 players paid a visit to young children who are hospitalized at LSU Medical Center. The list of Tide players included Eric Gray, Charlie Kirschman, Brian Motley, John Parker Wilson, Chavis Williams, Nick Gentry, Brandon Gibson, Andrew Friedman, Alex Watkins, P.J. Fitzgerald, Heath Thomas, Corey Reamer, Demetrius Goode, Milton Talbert, Nick Fanuzzi, Greg McElroy, Wallace Gilberry, Joshua Curry, Matt Caddell, Justin Britt, Rashad Johnson, Javier Arenas, Forress Rayford, Charles Hoke, Taylor Pharr, Preston Dial, David Ross, Baron Huber, Charlie Higgenbotham, Keith Saunders, B.J. Stabler and Antoine Caldwell.
"I'm glad we had the chance to meet some of the children at the medical center today and I hope we were able to brighten up their day a little bit by stopping by. This is one of those things where it is probably more rewarding for the players because you get to see the kids smile when you shake their hand, give them an Alabama hat, or sign something. As college football players, we are very fortunate and it is important for us to take some time out to make a visit like we did today."
In between the Tide worked for two hours in full pads, which is normally a game week Wednesday practice, at Independence Bowl Stadium as preparations continue of the 32nd annual PetroSun Independence Bowl this Sunday night against Colorado.
“We just had a good practice,” Saban said. “It was a little better practice today. I think we are getting settled in a little bit more. I think we did a better job of executing. I think in situations like this it takes a lot of discipline, it takes a lot of mental focus and mental toughness to stay focused on what the task at hand is; which is to be able to execute and play winning football. It takes a little maturity to do that and I was pleased today that we were better that way. That’s the key to performing well at a bowl game and if we can maintain that, hopefully we’ll be able to do that.”
Alabama will face Colorado on Sunday at 7 p.m. (CST) and the game will be televised by ESPN.
Coach Saban’s comments following Thursday’s practice:
On Antoine Caldwell:
“He is a fine young man and he has done a great job for us. We are pleased and proud of all the guys that we have had graduate this year. Caldwell is certainly a great football player and he was elected captain by his peers, which says something about his character and leadership. To get a degree in three years is an accomplishment for anyone.”
On Wallace Gilberry:
“He has a lot of tackles for losses, a lot of sacks. He is one of the guys that’s a play-maker on our defense. He is a fine young man, works hard everyday, sets a good example for the other players and shows a lot of positive leadership. He goes out on the field and performs well and backs it up. He has been one of our most productive players.”
On status of running backs:
“Terry Grant was OK today. Both (Glen) Coffee and (Roy) Upchurch are OK too and we will probably play all three guys in the game.”
On defensive improvement:
“I think you’re only as good as your last play. They will be challenged in this game. I think they got more comfortable with the system and scheme and they made less mental errors and probably played better together and I think that was the key to us playing a little bit better, but I think we are capable of playing a lot better than that and hopefully we will continue to improve.”
Senior wide receiver Matt Caddell comments following Thursday’s practice:
On Colorado defense:
“It all starts with their linebackers. I think they have a great linebacker that swarms to the ball real well. They have a great linebacker (Jordon Dizon) that won the Butkus Award and made a lot of tackles (160) this year. They have a really good team. We saw the Oklahoma game and I can see how they beat Oklahoma. They have a really good team.”
On team unity:
“We’ve had a lot of team unity since last week. We were the only people in Tuscaloosa, practicing and going through camp. That just brought us closer together. We spent the holidays with each other and spent Christmas Day with each other and had a Christmas party. We really enjoyed that and it all brought us closer together.”
On finishing on a high note:
“The message has always been finish with Coach Saban. He wants us to finish strong; finish the season strong with a W’, that way next year’s team can have momentum and send a message around the country about Alabama football.”