TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Cory Reamer has trouble picking the lowpoint of his Alabama career.
Sure, he says, “Six-and-seven was bad.”
But also, “Losing all those games to Auburn was rough.”
The top-ranked Crimson Tide’s linebacker and his fellow seniors have come a long way since that 6-7 season three years ago. Enduring the tail end of a six-year losing streak to rival Auburn is starting to seem like a distant memory after two straight wins.
If Alabama can pull off a victory over No. 2 Texas on Thursday in Pasadena, Calif., with a national title on the line, Reamer & Co. will have no problem naming a high point to their college careers.
They have endured the firing of coach Mike Shula, celebrated the hiring of Nick Saban and helped revive a program that seems to have once again become a regular in the Southeastern Conference and national title conversation for the foreseeable future.
That combined 13-13 record in the first two years for the fourth-year seniors seems long forgotten. They’ll depart having posted two straight perfect regular seasons.
“If you’d asked me two or three years ago if we expected to be in the situation we’re in right now,” Reamer said, “it might not have been easy to believe.
“We’ve come a long way since the 6-7 and 7-6 seasons.”
The group includes All-Americans Javier Arenas, Terrence Cody, Mike Johnson and Leigh Tiffin and lesser known starters like right tackle Drew Davis, defensive ends Lorenzo Washington and Brandon Deaderick and safety Justin Woodall.
Tight end Colin Peek didn’t come in with his fellow seniors.
He sat out last season after transferring from Georgia Tech, so he has experienced only success with the Tide.
But he expects to carry the memories for a long time.
“Just to be a part of a team that could be considered the one that restored the legacy is something that will last with you a lifetime,” said Peek, whose father played for the Florida Gators. “My family has such great ties with Florida. I remember seeing the joy my father has in following his school and being an (alumnus) there, and I know I’ll have that same pride later down the line within myself where on Saturdays I’m going to be cheering for Alabama.”
One drawback for these seniors who have experienced both adversity and success: They’re harder to satisfy.
“I just want to be remembered as that team that went 14-0 and beat Texas and won the national championship,” Washington said.
But he and his fellow seniors also remember the down times. Alabama won just two league games in 2006, Shula’s final season. Their success wasn’t instant under Saban, either. His first regular season ended with four consecutive losses, including a humbling defeat to Louisiana-Monroe and a four-game suspension for several key players. That 7-6 record was hardly a harbinger of things to come.
Offensive coordinator Major Applewhite only stuck around for one season after Saban took over, and defensive head coach Kevin Steele left for Clemson following last season. The seniors also came in when Alabama was dealing with the lingering effects of NCAA sanctions.
“We’ve been through so many coaches, coaching staffs, all types of stuff,” Washington said. “We’ve been through everything. A couple of us, like me and Drew, people were saying, ‘Why are you signing with Alabama when they’re still on probation’ and all that type of stuff. I came from out of state. A lot of people did. We all stuck through it. This is like the best prize you can get as a college football player.
“This is what everybody wants to play for.”
And the seniors especially say they are determined to focus on business, not just fun in Pasadena.
“This is like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, especially for me as a senior, so I’ll never have a shot at this again,” Deaderick said. “I’m going out there to win a national championship. I’m not going out there to party and have fun.
“I have plenty of years to do that, so I just really want to focus on the game.”