October 1, 2005.
It was a perfect day for football. The scene itself was set up almost as if it was a scripted part of a movie. The smell of the air, the cool of the grass — the aura in the city of Tuscaloosa that Saturday afternoon was filled with excitement as everyone who considered themselves a fan of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team knew a changing of the tide was about to happen.
You could see it in the football players too. Their walk was different. Their attitudes were much more uplifting and the talk of a national championship season echoed throughout the campus from Rose Towers all the way to Tutweiler Hall that the Florida Gators would leave T-Town wondering just what in the world they got themselves into.
The main catalyst for this change in the atmosphere was none other than junior wide receiver Tyrone Prothro. While miniature in stature at 5-foot-8 and slightly under 180 pounds — he played with the heart of a lion and had the skills to match, and on this day, they were on full display.
For the past two seasons, Prothro was the do-it-all player for Mike Shula and the Tide. He was a standout kick returner, wide receiver, and even lined up in the backfield as a running back and occasional quarterback. Did I mention he was an exceptional blocker too? Interestingly enough, this was not uncommon for Prothro because as a native of Heflin, Alabama, he was used to doing this same thing on Friday nights, which afforded him the opportunity to catch the Crimson Tide’s attention.
But for all of the previous accolades and big-time moments he had in an Alabama uniform, they all seemed to roll themselves in one gigantic encore of a performance as he unknowingly left his teammates and Tide fans with a showing akin to Muhammad Ali and his greatest fights.
From the opening snap, Prothro sent the message to the Gators and the college football nation that Alabama indeed was back, and the 87-yard bomb from Brodie Croyle was all that was needed to let them know. However, Prothro didn’t stop there. He went on to catch two more touchdown passes, and left the Gators and Urban Meyer wondering just how they could stop him.
Then, the Earth stood still in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
With 8:53 seconds on the clock, that was the last time Prothro would ever be credited with field time as a member of the Crimson Tide. On a fourth down play, Shula decided to go for it and called a fade route to Prothro who jumped up for the ball and when he came down, his left leg snapped and the fans in attendance could only look on and pray all was well with No. 4.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Despite surgery to repair, his leg became infected and could never fully heal properly to compete again in the sport he literally gave his all to.
While these stories have become all too common nowadays, Prothro refused to allow this tragedy to define him as it does so many former athletes who are unable to further their careers due to injury. For some, missing out on an opportunity to financially support your family and play at the highest level is enough to cause severe depression and mental anguish for a lifetime. While it’s safe to assume Prothro is only human and has had difficulty dealing with this internally — outwardly, he has done all of the right things and said the right things from the very beginning.
While so many were ready to throw the book at Shula for leaving him in the game for a play that was meaningless, not once has Prothro blamed his former coach or shown any bitterness for what has transpired. Coincidentally, on today, the tenth anniversary of this tragic event, Prothro had this message to share via his Facebook page:
Ten years ago today my life took an unexpected turn. Oct. 1 2005 having the best season of my career along with the best game of my career this happened. I am a true believer in “Things happen for a reason” and that God makes no mistakes. God blessed me to have the talent and the heart that I have and somewhere along the way I lost track of him. I truly feel he took something I loved so much to get my attention back on him. To all you athletes that are blessed to be healthy and carry on your careers and to the young athlete that have aspirations on college and NFL please please please always keep God 1st in everything you do. Have a relationship with him like no other. If it is his will he will bless you and take you as far as you want to go. #TenYearAnniversary #TBT #KeepGodFirst
It’s messages and statements such as this that continue and forever endear him to Alabama fans. When so many people are quick to blame others, Prothro continues to take the high road and believes greater things are in store despite what could have been.
This chapter is finally complete in his life and he sounds like he has long been ready to move on. Greater things are indeed in store for Prothro, and he’s finally at peace.