TDA: Coming from Florida, what made you choose to roll with the Tide?
CR: What made me choose Alabama over the other offers was the fan base. When I came for my visit as a sophomore, the fans were showing so much support even through probation. Fans were like, “You’re gonna take us to the promise land!” It was crazy how fans could call out your highlight plays. Playing time was big too. Alabama had a lot of small corners and they needed a bigger corner. My mom really liked Coach Shula. The playing time really drew me in.
TDA: You were able to redshirt during that 2005 season. From your vantage point, what made that year so special?
CR: I felt like we had an opportunity to play for the national championship three times while I was at Alabama (2005, 2008, and 2009). If (Tyrone) Prothro doesn’t break his leg, I have no doubt in my mind we would have won the championship that year. Having DeMeco Ryans there, it helped with his leadership. It was a special year and special group. They taught us sacrifice, like Terrence Jones, Rudy Griffin, Tim Castille — just a bunch of unsung heroes — very scrappy and it didn’t matter who played — they just wanted to be down for the cause. Not many people can say they had three shots to play for a national championship.
TDA: You played for two coaches in Mike Shula and Nick Saban, how was that like?
CR: It was like having two different CEO’s. Shula was the type that was like, ‘I’ll let you play as long as you make plays.’ He was not big on technique, but just making plays. Saban was very much attention to detail. For example, if you don’t line up correctly, you can’t play for him. Shula was so much different so it was definitely a learning curve and a transition. I Came in with 32 guys in 2005 and only 13 won the national championship in 2009. Saban is a terrific coach and helped me grow and develop as a man. As a DB, I was with him all day every day, so I got a chance to learn a lot from him.
TDA: How did you embrace your role as a backup and special teams contributor?
CR: I never really embraced my backup role truly. Anybody that knows me knows I wanted to transfer. My mom was dying of breast cancer, and she begged me not to leave. I wanted to go to a HBCU so bad, but my mom encouraged me and it allowed me to embrace it and turn a negative into a positive. My brother was incarcerated at the time and he would tell me they were making bets on me making special teams tackles during games. The motivation from them helped me in being named special teams captain, and I ended up leading the team in special teams tackles. The big named guys like Julio Jones, they had to listen to me! Even though I wanted more playing time, I wouldn’t’ change not one thing about my experience at Bama.
TDA: Talk about that 2009 season, how did it feel winning the first National championship in 17 years for Alabama?
CR: For us, the 2005 class, that was one of our goals. To finally bring it back to where it belonged — it was priceless. To go 14-0 in the SEC was great. Every great team needs a little bit of luck, and with Terrence Cody blocking two field goals against Tennessee, that says it all. (Roy) Upchurch makes a great catch in the Iron bowl, Eryk Anders getting a sack in the national championship game. We had a lot of unsung heroes every week. We actually lost Donta` Hightower and Corey Reamer stepped up big time that year. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Leigh Tiffin had a great year after being hated a few years earlier. We just really jelled that year. Saban said something important to us that year, he said the 2008 Florida game we played like we were just happy to be there, and that won’t happn again. The next year, we were so amped up about being back because we were just tired of hearing about Tebow. That game was personal.
TDA: What was your most memorable game at Alabama?
CR: I have two actually. I’ll never forget the time I first showed up to Bryant-Denny against Tulane. Roy Upchuch blocked a punt and I scored. The next one would be getting a one-handed interception against Arkansas, it was one of those interceptions that everyone was shocked based on how it looked except for me. I put the work in to get there to be able to make plays like that. Also, meeting President Obama was a cool experience for me being a first generation kid and graduating from Alabama and meeting the first African-American president was big for me. When I graduated that was big too. I was the only kid in my family to graduate from college, and I got a Masters and a 3.9 GPA.
TDA: You’ve done a lot of camps and programs since your time at UA. What inspired you to become so involved in this way?
CR: For me, I have always been involved. I was the president of the football fraternity. In grad school, I started my own organization. I saw what I lacked and what other guys lacked and I wanted to do something about it. My experiences have helped me reached kids that others couldn’t. I’m trying to change the narrative of what an athlete looks like, talks like, and change the perception. If one person does the wrong thing, they think that all athletes are jerks, and that’s not right. Outside of sports, there are so many trainers now that kids can tell you all of the football plays, but if you give him a book, he can’t do anything with it. When I was in ninth grade, I couldn’t read either, so when I talk to a kid, I’m giving them real life experiences. I’m just blessed to give back and have these relationships.
TDA: What are you currently involved in?
CR: I have had my own company for 5 years. I work for myself. Just trying to change the narrative, striving for greatness. The same attitude I had on the football field, I’m using that to everyday life. Showing people the right way to live. Being courteous to people, being nice — even when it’s tough. The company is called TAP — Together Assisting People. We take kids to college campuses and bring executives to talk to them. I may bring an entrepreneur who is a plumber or a construction worker or truck driver. The idea is to teach players that, yeah you may be a football player now, but what will your life look like afterwards? If you’re not a Julio Jones or Mark Ingram — how will you give back to your community? Players must be prepared to transition. I look at Marcel Dareus and the things he’s doing and it’s great. He just donated $100,000 to a park in Birmingham. He doesn’t do it for publicity it’s because he has a big heart. Many of those guys do this for the cause and not for the recognition. My gift is just being a connector — connecting the right people together.
LB C.J. Mosley
DT Jeremy Clark
LB Eryk Anders
LB DeMeco Ryans
LB Nico Johnson
TE Preston Dial