TDA: Being from the Tuscaloosa Area, how special was it to get the opportunity to receive a scholarship from Alabama?
TJ: It was very special to receive a scholarship from Alabama. Growing up in Tuscaloosa I grew up rooting for the home team. I never dreamed that I would get the opportunity to play for the Tide but I’m very thankful.
TDA: You were able to join your former high school teammate Le’Ron McClain, how did that impact your decision, were y’all a packaged deal?
TJ: Me and Le’Ron were best friends and we went through the whole recruiting process together. We visited schools, camps, and took some of our official visits together but I don’t think not one time that we seriously discussed being a packaged deal. He actually committed to Alabama early and then decomitted while I remained uncommitted. He thought I was heading to Auburn because they were really recruiting me hard but at the end of the day I ended up at Bama with Le’Ron and that made it special since me and him had been playing football, basketball and track since the 8th grade.
TDA: Talk about your first time playing as a true freshman on defense how did you feel? Were you ready? How different was it from high school?
TJ: I started every game as a freshman on special teams and was listed as 2nd string strong-side linebacker. Due to injuries I didn’t start but got significant playing time against Arkansas. D Pope (Derek Pope) went down with an injury so I got thrown in there. I was ready mentally, but physically I was at a disadvantage on some plays. The game was a little faster than high school but football is football.
TDA: Who were some of the guys you looked up to while at Alabama and how did they prepare you?
TJ: Some of the guys I looked up to as a freshman were Cornelius Wortham, Derrick Pope, Freddie Roach, and DeMeco Ryans. When Corn and Pope graduated, Meco and Freddie really drove and pushed me to get better on and off the field. Whether it was fighting through those hot summer workouts, or showing up to class, those guys really made sure I handled my business.
TDA: Coach Joe Kines once referred to you as the smartest linebacker he had. What did he mean by that? Do you find yourself watching games breaking down the linebacker responsibilities?
TJ: I don’t know why Coach Kines referred to me as the smartest linebacker he had. He must have forgot he had DeMeco out there too. My only guess is that he thought I was a fast learner with instincts. I really don’t know. Yeah I find myself watching games and critiquing linebackers’ techniques. I can sometime call a play before it even happens.
TDA: Have you ever considered coaching?
TJ: Yeah I thought about coaching before and it crosses my mind from time to time. I actually helped out one spring at my old high school and really enjoyed working with the kids. It was just bad timing at the time and I couldn’t pursue it at the time. Maybe one day I can make it happen before it gets too late.
TDA: The 2005 defense is arguably one of the greatest Alabama defenses in the BCS era if not all time. What made that team and the defense so special?
TJ: That 2005 defense had been battle tested. Coming off a 4-9 year the year before guys decided that offseason that we were not going to let that happen again. Meco, Freddie, Roman, Pep (Charlie Peprah), Ant (Anthony) Madison, Mark Anderson, (Wallace) Gilberry, Juwan Simpson, Jeremy Clark, and Rudy (Griffin) — but there were other guys too that played big roles that helped us be one of the top defenses in the country that year. We almost did something special that year. Just came up a little short.
TDA: What was the greatest game you played in while at Alabama?
TJ: The 2005 Florida game was probably the greatest game i played. It was my 1st game back from injury so I didn’t get much PT but to just be there in that environment is something I’ll never forget taking down the mighty Florida Gators. Personally for me when we played LSU is one of my best game. I made a few plays that was definitely a confidence builder to have done it against them. I had better game statistically against lower competition but I take that LSU game as one of my most memorable games.
TDA: How special is it to see the success Alabama is having now knowing you helped paved the way by staying to sustain the program?
TJ: It’s very special to see Bama have all the success they are having. I was part of a group of 17 guys that chose to come to Bama when no one else did with scholarships being limited and the bowl ban. So It’s amazing to see how far this program have come.
TDA: What were things you did outside of football while at Alabama?
TJ: I wasn’t involve in many things outside of football while I was at Bama. Football is so time consuming so there’s rarely any free time with school, meetings, practices and study hall. So it made it difficult to be part of fraternities or any other outside organization. Video games and playing spades with teammates and other students at the dorm was our idea of outside activities.
TDA: What are you up to now?
TJ: I’m currently living in Hoover with my family. I have a soon to be four-year-old daughter who is just everything to me. I’m currently a sales manager with Verizon.
TDA: What are your thoughts on the upcoming season?
TJ: I’m looking forward to the season. I was really impressed by the defense this spring. Looks like the secondary will be better this year. Got a lot of talented freshmen back there that can make an impact. I’m curious just like everyone else to see who will be our quarterback. We have a tough schedule but we should be pretty good. I hope they enter the season with a chip on their shoulder coming off that letdown to Ohio State.
TDA: How special was it to see Blake Sims perform last season with the stigma Alabama has on black quarterbacks?
TJ: I was very proud of Blake for all of the success he had. He exemplified everything you want in a person. Most guys these days are so quick to throw in the towel and quit or transfer when things don’t go their way. All Blake did was play every position they wanted him to and when he was given a shot at the QB job he took it and ran. Not only did he do great things on the field but the impact he had on the community in inspiring the youth. Showing them that they can be the next Blake Sims starting at QB for The University of Alabama.