NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — All football and no play would make the Crimson Tide a rather dull group.
So, when practice is over and the film room goes dark, the gladiator mentality fades and the little kid trapped inside most Alabama football players comes out of hiding. The cartoons go on, the comic books come out and one well-known player reaches for his collectable card game.
The sometimes surprising and typically unknown hobbies serve as stress relievers for the No. 1 Tide as it prepares for Thursday’s BCS National Championship showdown with second-ranked Texas.
An informal survey of players during the past few days revealed cornerback Javier Arenas’ secret hobby takes the top prize. Among the handful of his teammates asked, nobody had a clue what it was.
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“I collect Pokémon cards,” he said. “I just like them, like the holographic ones, yeah. I just like to collect them … It’s just me. It’s something I’ve done since I was little, and I still do it.”
Teammate Baron Huber got a good laugh when he heard of Arenas’ on-going fascination with the cards based on a Japanese video game but admitted he wasn’t too surprised because “Javi kind of looks like Pokémon.”
Marvel Comics collector and nose guard Terrence Cody can understand why it was such a well-guarded secret until this week.
“I haven’t seen any in his house,” he said with a wide grin. “They’re probably up under his bed.”
There’s no shame on Cody’s part when it comes to talking about comics. The 354-pounder proudly wore his Marvel-themed shorts to speak with reporters last week in Tuscaloosa and was more than happy to discuss it further during Tuesday’s media day in Newport Beach.
Like an overgrown 4-year-old, Cody stared at the ceiling of the hotel ballroom when pondering which super power he’d choose for himself if that were an option.
“I would probably say super speed like Flash has,” he said although his favorite character, fittingly, is “The Incredible Hulk.”
Cartoons rule the dorm rooms and apartments of Alabama football players. Running back Mark Ingram proclaimed his admiration for SpongeBob SquarePants during the ESPN telecast of the Heisman Trophy ceremony last month, but most enjoy the animated tales of yesteryear.
“There’s a ton of us who do it,” fellow running back Terry Grant said. “A couple of us love cartoons, and, when we start talking about it, you get into it. You just love cartoons.”
Grant considers himself a connoisseur of “Tom and Jerry” and “The Incredibles,” while maintaining the sharp eye of a critic.
“It’s just ridiculous the cartoons they make now,” he said.
It’s not all child’s play for the Tide.
Huber enjoys spending his summer downtime with left guard Mike Johnson, the Chicago Cubs and a game of Scrabble.
The board game, though, stays in the box until the lovable losers fall behind.
“We think, somehow, it’s going to bring them luck,” said Huber who also hosts a weekly Thursday night game of spades at his house.
Other talents and hobbies run the gamut. Defensive back Marquis Johnson sings, defensive linemen Luther Davis and Kerry Murphy rap along with Pokémon aficionado Arenas.
Nothing, it seems, is too outrageous for Alabama football players after clocking out for the day.