TDA: What about Alabama made you commit to them despite being a Tennessee native?
DA: Just growing up in Tennessee all I ever heard about was Tennessee and I was a big fan at the time. They recruited me hard and they were a great school and I had a really good vision went I down there on my visit, but with Alabama they were just about to peak and I played against guys like Ahmad Galloway and Kendall Moorehead from Memphis and I felt really comfortable around those guys and it felt more like home to me and that was the reason why I went there.
TDA: What was the culture like at UA when you came in 1999?
DA: It was great. Coach Neil Calloway was my offensive line coach and Mike Dubose was my head coach. I had really good guys in front of me, getting caught up in a big school and being shocked by all of the talent especially when you’re the man at your high school. Calloway was a great coach, one of the best I played for. He was a real technician that taught me a lot that I didn’t know. He put his arms around me, and really taught me. One of those guys that if I saw him today, I could give him a big hug. Dubose was the same way, he really loved his players. They were some great coaches, we really had some good ones on that staff.
TDA: That 1999 season was believed to be the year that brought Alabama back, what happened in 2000?
DA: That was a rough year man. We came in with a lot of hype coming off the SEC Championship, played Florida twice and beat them twice. We started off with UCLA, and that was a long flight from what we were used to, and it just started from there. We thought we would be pretty good, but sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce your way. We never really got rolling like we wanted to. We stayed together as a team though. We didn’t point fingers or anything, but it never really came together for us as a team. I was always on a winning team in high school and going through that was tough.
TDA: You blocked for one of the greatest running backs in Alabama history in Shaun Alexander, what was that like? What made him so special?
DA: That guy there was a great sized back, who had great speed and great vision, and was just so hard to bring down. Not sure how he did it, but it was like his whole body would go left, and everyone would just fall off of him. We joked all the time, we would call each other cuz (cousin), even though we’re not related. He is a great guy with a big heart who would do anything for you. He ran the ball like it was supposed to be ran. He could run between the tackles, and beat you outside. He was a complete back, and you saw what he did in the NFL. It was a great honor blocking for a guy like that.
TDA: How did you handle the second coaching change after Franchione left?
DA: It was tough. We had gotten the news that Dubose wouldn’t be back in 2000 and it was real emotional because we saw him as our leader. He brought us in and you never think about that while you’re there. You think he’ll be there for the time you’re there. It was devastating for me, but the longer you play, you understand it’s common place and when Coach Fran came in, he did a pretty good job and he knew the game of football and how a play would be executed and it would happen on Saturday nights. The transition was tough having to adjust to a new guy. Something we had to live and learn from. When he left it was tough, it was a different style of offense when he came in and I ended up losing a starting position. It caused me to have to change up some things about the physical side. I had to lose some weight to fit the offense. It was a tough transition in the beginning. I stuck with it and it worked out pretty well.
When Fran left, it was like ‘here we go again’ we have to do this again and get readjusted to a new guy and you could feel the tension and the confusion of guys wondering, ‘Is it us?’ It was a rough time and it just felt like you were lost. When he left it was like, ‘What are we supposed to do? Other schools have their coach for a while, why can’t we just have a coach that’s here?’ That was our mindset, it was another rough transition and coach Price came in for a spring and he was a real players‘ coach and everybody took to him and he was treating us like we were his sons and then got that blow dealt again — like this is crazy. We had a press conference, and we were emotional during the interviews because we can’t even keep a coach. We were starting to second guess ourselves, but it helped everybody on that team that we went through that for a reason. Nothing is going to happen like you draw it up. That helped us for the lives we’ve transitioned to now.
TDA: Most memorable game at UA?
DA: 2002 against Ole Miss. We played at home, and the year before we went to Ole Miss and Eli Manning scrubbed us bad — he really put it on us that game. Coach Fran circled that game that offseason and he said when they get here, we’re gonna lock the gates and know they came to Alabama. We were up big at halftime and Coach Fran came in like, “Sit down! Sit down! this aint’ good enough!” We were like — what’s going on? It fired us up even more and we came out in the second half strong, and Santonio Beard came out and broke the single-game rushing record for touchdowns in one game.
TDA: How was life immediately after UA? Did you continue playing football?
DA: I had a chance to play with the Tennesee Titans as a free agent. I was off and on the practice squad for a little while. Follwing the season I went to NFL Europe and was set to go to Tampa Bay and before going, I ended up getting hurt and had my career ending injury. It was a really bad knee injury and messed up a lot of cartilage in my knee. I flew back to Birmingham and had three surgeries in two years, and after the third one I went to a guy in Atlanta and he said that if were to get hurt again it would not be good and I would have to deal with it for the rest of my life, and after that I’ve been coaching since 2008.
TDA: What are you up to now?
DA: Coaching at East Central Community College in Decatur, Mississippi and it’s been going pretty well. My wife and son we all moved down last spring. It’s been going pretty well. Expecting some big things here. The school is supporting us, I’m the offensive line coach and we finished the season last year at 3-6. Those guys were young and now they’re sophomores so we should have a pretty good year this year.
TDA: You managed to help turn the Bessemer City High School football team around as head coach, what was that experience like?
DA: Bessemer City was a great experience. I got the head job after Billy Woodham stepped down. There were some rough years at first. We had some really young guys, I just got into the head coaching role and we were 2-8 the first year. It’s a totally different world than an assistant. As a rookie HC, I made a bunch of rookie mistakes. Our record was the same the next year, but we were competing, so it was better. The third year, we ended up 6-4 with mostly the same guys and you could see the growth and maturity in those guys. It was humbling because we were 2-8 for two years, and having to reach out to older coaches, we all grew up together. After that, I was let go and went to Shades Valley to be an assistant coach. We (Bessember City) had to grow up some, we got through it and nobody ran from it, the players didn’t run from it. We had a motto of the best way to get through something is to go right through it. It was a great experience.
TDA: How far in the coaching profession do you hope to go?
DA: As far as the Lord will take me. Whatever He has planned for me, that’s where I’ll go. I don’t get caught up in the big names, just being a positive influence for the players, it’s a dream come true. It’s a pleasure. I don’t feel like I’m working, I feel like I’m just living, and enjoying it — and getting paid to do it. I just love the game. I love to see how it affects men and helps men grow. That s why I love it.
LB C.J. Mosley
DT Jeremy Clark
LB Eryk Anders
LB DeMeco Ryans
LB Nico Johnson