What A-Day means for Alabama’s veteran players


James Ogletree

Alabama football opened its spring season just under a month ago, and after 14 practices, including two scrimmages closed to the public, the players are ready to show thousands of fans the fruits of their labors.

“It’s just something for the fans to come out, the fans that don’t get to come during the season for whatever reason,” safety Deionte Thompson said. “For them to come out means a lot to me, it means a lot to players around the organization and it means a lot to the coaches and support staff. So, you just want as many to come out as they can and we just want to put on a good show for them.”

Last year’s game was a better show than in years past, which included a 7-3 snore-fest in 2016 and an 11-year stretch where neither the Crimson nor the White team scored more than 24 points.

Quarterback Jalen Hurts drove the Crimson team 47 yards on four plays inside the final minute, setting up a game-winning field goal by J.K. Scott – all under the bone-crushing pressure of playing for a steak dinner.

The atmosphere – from the festivities around campus to the electricity in the stadium – can be crucial for securing top recruits. In 2015, Alabama signees Lester Cotton, Matt Womack, and Damien Harris were all in attendance, as was high school junior Najee Harris, who verbally committed to Alabama on his visit.

Tight end Hale Hentges said he enjoys showing the fan base, which he called the best in the country, what the team has been practicing over the preceding four weeks. With several new coaches this year, this will be fans’ first chance to see how similar or different the team may look compared to last year.

Hentges also said he considers the game a gauge of how well the team’s hard work has paid off.

“Overall, I feel like it’s a great opportunity to showcase what we’ve been working on,” Hentges said. “I kind of feel like it’s a springboard to the season, and I feel like it’s a good indicator of how well we’ve been playing.”

Cotton said he looks forward to the challenge of moving the ball against the always-stout defense, and performing for the fans makes it that much more thrilling.

“It’s like another step for us to get ready for the season, hold y’all until we get to the season,” Cotton said. “But I like A-Day because it gives us a chance to play against some really good guys like [outside linebacker] Terrell [Lewis] and the front seven.”

Thompson said the expectations for the spring game are the same as the team’s other two scrimmages – for every player on the team to embrace competition – with the added bonus of giving the fans what they’ve been waiting over three months to see.

The 11 highest attendance totals in the game’s 71-year history have come in the last 11 years, dating back to a record-setting 92,138 in 2007, Nick Saban’s first season. Before that, the highest was 51,117 in 1988.

Last year’s mark of 74,326 ranked No. 1 in the SEC and No. 3 in the country, trailing only Ohio State and Nebraska, but Thompson, who said he often looks up into the stands during the game, wants more.

“For A Day I want 100,000 (fans),” Thompson said. “I want the biggest spring game across college football.”

The 2018 Alabama Golden Flake A-Day Game will kick off at 1 p.m. CT on Saturday, April 21. Admission is free and open to the public.