TUSCALOOSA, AL (WBRC) - The following is a commentary blog from FOX6 Sports Director Rick Karle:
Just when you think you've seen it all! There are football fans, and then there is a man named Bobby Hunter.
Come Sunday afternoon at Alabama Fan Day, head coach Nick Saban will be sitting at a table on one of the goal lines at Bryant-Denny Stadium. In the other end zone will be hundreds of Bama fans about to take part in the Running Of The Gumps. It will all unfold about 4:30 pm CT: a gate will be opened, and the Gumps will run nearly 110 yards to Saban's table. The payoff? One autograph from the coach.
Front and center when that gate opens? The pride of Lincoln, Alabama, Bobby Hunter. All it took for Bobby to be first in line was his arrival at Bryant-Denny Stadium's gate 45. Four days before Fan Day take place.
Now approaching his mid-thirties, Hunter, a life-long Alabama fan, has been first in line at this extravaganza seven of the last eight years. On Friday, the self-professed "King Of Fan Day" told us just how important this event is to him…and his wife…and his five kids.
You see, the Hunter family centers their vacation around the weekend of Fan Day (so much for that trip to the lake). Hunter and his wife tell us it's all worth it, as the couple has accrued over 400 autographs since Coach Saban has been in Tuscaloosa. HUnter has seven autographs from the coach, as Saban has signed just about everything in the Hunter house. Last year the coach signed Bobby's Alabama zombie. A few years back Saban signed the onesie on his 5-week-old baby son (which led of course to the university's "no signing of babies" rule). Hunter says that most of his autograph collection contains the John Hancocks of players, as he gets those autographs when most of those players are freshmen.
Are the Hunters nuts for arriving at the stadium on a Wednesday and waiting until Sunday to get a single Saban autograph? No sir, in fact wife Christina tells us that it's a great way for the family to spend quality time together. They do leave their post during the day to shop and see the sights, but sleep for Hunter revolves around getting some z's in a folding chair while the wife and kids head to a motel. Boredom? Hunter remedies that by opening his laptop and watching episodes of The Walking Dead (which he might be by Sunday if he doesn't get some rest). No shower for four days? Who needs one when a Nick Saban autograph is a stake? And besides, Nick Saban has been around smelly football players for years. And the anticipation of running 110 yards at full speed once those gates open on Sunday? Hunter tells us he's been in training for months (Run, Forrest, run!).
If you happen to be near Bryant-Denny Stadium over the next few days, stop by and say hello to the Hunter family of Lincoln, Alabama. And if you find all this a bit odd, it could be that Hunter has the last laugh, as he has Nick Saban's autographs scrolled on coolers, jackets, and baby products. And if you are Auburn fan, Bobby Hunter has but one comment for you, as that comment is printed on a large sign at gate 45. It reads, "For all the Barners and haters, we say, 'Roll Tide!'"
Here's wishing Bobby the best on Sunday in his sprint toward the coach. I just hope he's not paying attention if someone happens to yell, "Break a leg!"