TDA: What made you commit to Alabama? Were you always a fan?
JC: Always been a fan. I Remember going to school and we had the Alabama/Auburn can food drive and I always chose Alabama for some reason. It was all about state pride. Why not play for Alabama? I didn’t even know where Auburn university was growing up until I was maybe 10 years old. Always saw Bama on TV instead of Auburn.
TDA: What was it like when you first got to UA? What was the biggest difference from high school to college? Was it an adjustment period for you?
JC: Coming from Daphne, the first thing was the culture shock. A lot more people than Daphne High School than University of Alabama. Adjusting to different personalities and different people was part of it too. Playing football made that part easy just being in a team environment. There was a lot of stuff to get into and a lot to do. It took about two months to get adjusted to everything. Training camp, different types of practices and what not. The comfort level got there in about a couple of months. Learning how to conduct myself around the university and learning how to do things without my mama and without supervision.
TDA: What was it like going through that first year when Coach Franchione left and Coach Price coming and being fired to having Coach Shula whom you never met?
JC: The 2002 season was comfortable having guys like Kenny King, Atlas Herion, Kendall Morehead, Antwon Odom, and Kyle Tatum help with the transition. As far as the season and the end of it with Coach Fran leaving was a big surprise to us. On campus it was like, ‘We didn’t have a coach!’ and it was uncomfortable. There was a period of uncertainty while we were looking for a coach. Thank goodness for Coach Kines, he kind of settled things. When Coach Price came and left, it was like the wild wild west around there. Just a really weird time on campus with things. We didn’t run a muck, but it was just strange.
When Shula came in, we were excited to have a coach and I give him credit for coming in and keeping the prior coaching staff there. It was a good thing he stayed and kept us together. Really like the glue that stuck us together. Coach Kines being there was always a constant for us and allowing him to coach us in the bowl game (after Shula was gone) was good.
TDA: How tough was that 2003 season?
JC: It was very tough to say the least. Everything was happening so fast back then. I wasn’t even aware of when he got hired and the NCAA stuff (with not being allowed to talk to us), but going 4-9, we tried to block it out really. We were having to learn a game plan every week. A lot of learning on the run and putting in new defenses was difficult. We didn’t make excuses, because on the field you just play and play hard. No finger pointing or anything. One thing I remembered was that group of guys that came in and we stuck together. Coach Shula had some growing to do and learning to be a head coach and really learn us as players.
TDA: What made you stay through all of that?
JC: I thought about Ken Darby, Demeco Ryans, Chris Harris and all of the guys that came in with me and it wasn’t even a thought of wanting to transfer and go somewhere else. I wanted to play for those guys and there was not one whisper of guys wanting to go this place and that place. I wanted to work through adversity with those guys.
TDA: Things turned around quickly for you in 2004 and you started on one of the more talented defenses. What was it like going up against some of the best players in the SEC week in and week out?
JC: It was fun! Very fun. You learn a lot about yourself, that was one of the main things. I was underweight at the time. Coach (Kines) used to call me the little guy actually. It was definitely an experience and getting to play alongside some of the guys. I had fun battling with guys I came in with.
TDA: Talk about that 2005 season. What made that team so special and the defense in particular?
JC: Doesn’t get much better than that season. It was one of those rides that I wish never ended. We made things work through adversity with limited scholarships etc. but we played for each other that year. Offense, defense, everybody. We would get up at 6am and go to work. Injuries and being shorthanded hurt us, and things maybe would have turned out differently. It was fun to get those group of guys together and to see them years later in the league, that was good. The thing that made it so fun was how hard we played. It was just magical. We took pride just going out there and playing defense. It didn’t matter what the offense did or did not do, we felt we would always get the ball back no matter what. With Demeco Ryans leading the way that made it great.
TDA: Daphne has produced some very talented players with T.J. Yeldon the most recent, how does it feel to see fellow Daphne players doing so well and at Alabama?
JC: It feels good. I been around him since maybe when he was younger. Proud to see him and I followed him all through high school and when he got drafted in the second round, it was great to see.
TDA: Were you really one of the strongest players on the team at Alabama?
JC: *Laughter* We had some guys that could flat out push some weight. I remember Anthony Bryant doing like 700 pounds on the squat.
TDA: What was it like playing in the NFL? What was the difference between college and pro?
JC: A lot of great experiences. My first team was with the Eagles. I went undrafted. But seeing all these guys I saw on TV, and when you get under the helmet and see they are truly good guys. Speed was the biggest adjustment. EVERYTHING was about speed, not just the game, but the entire scope of things. Similar to the transition of going from high school to college.
TDA: Talk about the Iron Bowl rivalry. How tough was it going all through college and not beating your biggest rival?
JC: It was a rivalry! Some of my best friends and closest friends actually came out of those rivalry games. Fans may not like that, but that’s the truth. You play these guys in high school and meet them on visits and camps, we already knew each other before the rivalry began. As far as the game itself, it’s like the one that always got away. That question almost made me mad. Makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck actually…
TDA:When you see the success Alabama is having now, how does it make you feel knowing you helped pave the way for these young guys now?
JC: I have a real sense of pride. I let everyone know where I played and I don’t want to take anything away from those guys, but it feels good knowing we had a little something to do with it. Some of those guys may not know who I am, but when I think about guys like A.J. McCarron who I met when he was in 8th grade and him telling me he would win the championship and at the time I’m like ‘get out the way’ *laughter* but three championships later, he did it.
TDA: What do you think of the job Nick Saban has done in turning the program around?
JC: He’s done an exceptional job, he’s the man!
TDA: What was the best game you played in at Alabama?
JC: The 2005 Tennessee game. The rivalry made it huge. The second biggest other than Auburn and the Phillip Fulmer issue made it a big deal at the time too. Hearing the “Rocky Top” song going on and then the Rocky Flop with Roman Harper was great. The older guys who were present for the game were very excited for us. The Florida game would be a close second, only because what transpired later on in the game.
TDA What do you miss the most about playing at Alabama?
JC: I miss playing with the guys. I miss going to battle with those guys. Knowing they had my back and I had theirs. One of the best feelings in the world. Being around the guys, knowing they’re giving their all and I’m giving my all.
TDA: What are you up to now?
JC: I’m retired from the NFL, living the retired life living in Texas. I spend the majority of my time with a number of Non-Profit organizations.