ORLANDO, Fla. -- It was nearly three hours before game time, and the 11-member Ezell fan club was in position.
Per tradition, the club camps close to the gate Alabama enters, and members were not about to change Saturday morning in Orlando.
It was, after all, their last opportunity to see their favorite Crimson Tide player make that walk from the bus to the locker room. The gravity of the moment was not lost on the family members of Athens (Ala.) High School alum and Alabama senior walk-on Rob Ezell before the Tide’s 49-7 deconstruction of Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl
Sporting an oversized button identifying her as the mother of the backup wide receiver, Deb Ezell served as spokeswoman.
“This is a bitter sweet bowl game for us because this is the end of seeing Rob in a jersey,” she said. “We’ve been watching him since the seventh grade. We’re so proud that he got the opportunity to come down and to learn under coach Saban. He’s been watching ‘College GameDay’ since he was 4 years old.”
Alabama won its 10th game of the year with a balanced offense and a defense that held the Big Ten co-champions to negative-48 rushing yards -- the second-fewest allowed by an Alabama defense, missing the record set in 1962 against Houston by just 1 yard.
Alabama dominated the bowl game in the finale for fifth-year senior quarterback Greg McElroy and possibly a few of his talented underclassman teammates.
There was little hangover from the fall-from-ahead loss to Auburn on Thanksgiving weekend as the Tide won at least 10 games for the third straight year -- the first time Alabama has done that since coach Bear Bryant was in his final years in Tuscaloosa.
Part of that success involved unheralded players such as Ezell. He never left the sideline Saturday, but that’s just where he figures to spend his days here on out.
“He’s ready to move on to learn how to be a college coach,” Deb Ezell said. “That’s what his dream has been since he was a little boy: to play on a D-I team and to become a college coach. So he’s ready to move on to that next phase of his life. When he comes home, we have a lot of fun with him telling stories about the players.”
Rob’s younger brother, David Ezell, is fully aware of the legacy his brother helped build, even though it was behind the scenes.
“We’re just happy to be part of one of the greatest stretches in Alabama football history,” David said. “It’s been an amazing ride.”
It’s a journey that involved big brother realizing worldwide celebrity he his impression of Nick Saban aired on ESPN and went viral online. The routine involved a certain four-letter word that was censored for the broadcast.
“He does not talk like that in his mama’s house,” Deb Ezell said with a smile. “… I would have washed his mouth out.”