Tide players, fans celebrate 13th championship

Taylor Holland

Lines wrapped around Bryant-Denny Stadium well before the gates opened at noon Saturday as Crimson Tide fans prepared to celebrate the school’s thirteenth national championship.

An estimated 38,000 fans braved the cool temperatures to show their appreciation for the team and University.

“I wouldn’t have missed this for world,” said Tide fan and season ticket holder Carrie Jenkins of Decatur. “We enter each season praying for a championship, and this year our wish finally came true.”

Shortly after clips of Alabama’s victory in the BCS National Championship ended, head coach Nick Saban led the team onto the field amid roaring chants of “Roll Tide” by many in attendance.

The team was seated on a stage at the fifty-yard line and recognized for their accomplishments this past season. In addition to hearing the feats of their hometown heroes, fans caught a glimpse of their trophies.

Running back Mark Ingram’s Heisman Trophy, linebacker Rolando McClain’s Butkus trophy and the team’s SEC and national championship trophies were displayed on the front of the stage.

Athletics Director Mal Moore spoke about how, over the course of this season, the Tide defeated the past three national champions — Florida, LSU and Texas. Moore thanked the UA System Board of Trustees and UA President Robert Witt before speaking about Saban.

“I can’t say how appreciative I am of his efforts and the leadership he provides,” Moore said, before announcing that Saban will be “recognized on the Walk of Champions with a statue that is already underway.”

To the team, he said they are now a part of history.

“You will be forever remembered,” Moore said.

The team’s record six All-Americans were each recognized with video clips, and a few team members briefly addressed the crowd, thanking fans for their support over the course of the season.

Three of the six — Arenas, Johnson, and McClain — were also honored as being the team’s permanent captains, an honor which includes getting their hand and cleat prints preserved around Denny Chimes.

As the celebration was coming to an end, Saban also addressed the fans, thanking them for their “great support and spirit that you’ve given this team all year long.”

Many of the 38,000 gave Saban a standing round of applause when, on a day of celebrating the past, he mentioned the team’s future.

“I want everybody here to know- this is not the end. This is the beginning,” Saban said. “This team, you fans, our administration, our athletic administration, has proven that we know what it takes, and we’re going to build on that in the future with the players that we have coming back next year and the future players that will join our program. We’ll make this the most consistent winning program in the country.”

With that and one last Rammer Jammer “loud enough for Texas to hear,” the 2009 college football season came to a celebratory close.