TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Three years in. Two major knee surgeries later. But only one word describes Alabama running back Dee Hart: tough.
"For his size, pound for pound, I don't know if there's a tougher guy on our team," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said. "I respect great competitors. I love competitors. That guy's a great competitor in my mind no matter how much he plays, wherever he plays. That's how he competes."
Hart, from Orlando, Fla., arrived at Alabama as a five-star recruit, according to Rivals.com. He was apart of the 2011 class that produce HaHa Clinton-Dix (high school teammates) and Cyrus Kouandjio. But a spring ACL tear forced him to redshirt.
He came back stronger than ever in 2012 and was all over the field. He played in five games, finding time in the backfield and on special teams. In those five games, Hart carried the ball 21 times for 88 yards and caught two passes for 18 yards. He registered two tackles on kickoff coverage, forced a fumble and returned four punts for 50 yards.
But it came to an end, as a second ACL tear in the Ole Miss game sidelined Hart for the rest of the 2012 season.
Hart, a redshirt sophomore, has been working at the No. 2 running back spot behind T.J. Yeldon. He will also see time on special teams, particularly returning punts.
"He's doing pretty good," running back T.J. Yeldon said early this month. "He's back to running like he did last year before he got hurt. His knee hasn't been bothering him, so he's doing pretty good."
At 5-foot-9, 187 pounds, Hart's won't intimidate players with his size. But they always remember him after attempting to bring him down.
Cornerback Deion Belue hasn't had many run ins with Hart on the field. Belue said Hart isn't afraid to collide with some of the Tide's bigger defensive players.
"Dee Hart, man, he's the toughest player I know on the team," Belue said. "He backs down from nobody. It doesn't matter if it's Ed Stinson or Adrian Hubbard, he's going to get in there and set it off in there with them and give it everything he's got."
Center Ryan Kelly respects Hart for continuing to play after his two injuries. Kelly had a serious knee injury in high school, but said it would be hard to come back from two.
"Obviously he's not a big back, but he hits harder than anyone on the team," Kelly said. "He doesn't care if you're 6-foot-4, 300 pounds, he'll come up and pop you."
For Saban, Hart is the model for consistency and hard work.
"If we had everybody on our team that was as competitive as Dee Hart," Saban said, "we wouldn't be too much worried about complacency or being selfish or accountability or any of that stuff that we talk about and worry about all the time because we have success. The guy's willing to do anything you ask him to do."