BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The following is a commentary blog from WBRC FOX6 Sports Director Rick Karle:
As the clock hits zero, I hang onto photographer Anthony Moore and dive into a fast motion ride. Amid falling confetti it's raining tears at the University of Phoenix Stadium, and as celebrations erupt, I suddenly find myself face-to-face with Alabama fullback Michael Nysewander. The kid they call "Highway 46" was crying a river, tears falling from his eyelids to his game jersey. As I asked him for reaction to Bama's national championship win, Nysewander shook his head and said. "It's just so awesome, a dream come true... I just love these guys," the sudden lump in his throat not allowing him to speak further. As I responded, "Those are tears of joy, and you'll take them any day, right?", Nysewander, too emotional to speak, simply nodded his head and cried some more.
In over 36 years of covering sports, I have never heard the word "love" being tossed around so effortlessly and proudly, and it's that one word, LOVE- that helped the Crimson Tide win it all. That's right, big, strong, manly men sharing hugs and tears after a 45-40 win over a never-say-die Clemson team. As I made my way into the victorious locker room I ran into receiver Richard Mullaney. After telling him that he knows Jake Coker as well as anyone, I gave him our microphone to conduct his own interview. Mullaney's comments to his good buddy? "Jake, I just want to tell you that I love you." Responded Coker, "I love you too," and yet another hug was shared.
Quarterback Coker had heard it for months: He was limited, he was mediocre, he was nothing more than "perhaps good enough." Yet there he stands in victory, spreading the love to a national TV audience. Addressing his brother Patrick, an Air Force captain watching from the Middle East, Coker said, "I love you Pat. I love you more than you can imagine. You've inspired me this whole way, and I just can't wait to see you." Is this a future movie script? The underrated football player finding the mountaintop thanks to his brave brother? Now the entire stadium is flowing tears.
While cigars are lit in the Bama locker room, it's in a neighboring room where head coach Nick Saban was yes, sharing the love. Said the coach, "This is my favorite team because I love them all." (Who says Saban is an emotionless robot?) "These guys have come so far and accomplished so much", continued Saban, "that their will, their spirit, their willingness to compete and do the things they needed to do to be the kind of team they could be. I'm so happy for the team. This was all about winning the game for them. I've never been prouder for a group of guys than this and that's why I'm so happy for them." How about that? Nick Saban using the "love" word without hesitation.
You want more love? You need only look back at Derrick Henry's Heisman acceptance speech. The big guy didn't hesitate to use the word often. "To my grandmother, I love you and I'm praying for you"..."To my teammates, my brothers, my family that I love the most: I love you"... To Coach Saban, "I just love you coach. Without you I wouldn't be here today"... "To coach Pat & J.T., I love you, I love y'all"... "To my brother Altee Tenpenny, I just want to tell him I love him and I miss him."
And if there was any other reason I needed Monday night to remind me of the power of love, I found it as I waited to interview losing coach Dabo Swinney as the stadium had all but emptied. There amid a few equipment managers stood Dabo's 12-year-old son Clay, crying uncontrollably in his mother's arms. As Kathleen consoled her son, she told him how much she loved him. I gingerly approached Clay, searching for something to tell him that might make him feel better. All that I could come up with was, "Hey buddy, I have a feeling you will win it all next year as DeShaun Watson is coming back." Clay glanced at me, took a deep breath and turned to his mother only to resume sobbing.
The moral of the story? This Alabama football team is stocked with 5-star recruits and led by the man some say is the best coach in college football history. Yet without the love they shared, I'm not so sure the Crimson Tide would be celebrating number sixteen. Sometimes we don't see the heart and soul of college football players and family members because we're all too busy cheering or criticizing. As Michael Nysewander wiped away his tears and took part in more hugs, it quickly hit me: Man, I thought, these guys really do love one another, and perhaps I need to make sure to tell those in my life that I love them a little more often. How about you?