University of Alabama

Alabama football: Non-natives learn Iron Bowl lore

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama running back Mark Ingram grew up in Michigan, taking in the craziness that is the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry.

Like some of his fellow starters who aren’t from the state of Alabama, he didn’t necessarily know the significance of the Iron Bowl when he arrived, but he does now.

“I’ve seen that Michigan-Ohio State rivalry and it’s crazy, people rioting, pushing over cars, that type of thing,” Ingram said. “I’ve seen that from a fan’s perspective. I don’t know how the fans act out there for the Alabama-Auburn game.

“I just know the fans have a lot of passion for the game, the players have a lot of passion for the game, and everybody looks forward to it every year.”

Ingram got a taste of the game a year ago as the Tide ended a six-year Auburn reign with a 36-0 blanking. With a 45-0 pasting of Tennessee-Chattanooga in the rear view mirror, Tide players can look ahead to their big in-state rivalry.

Mike Johnson, a senior offensive lineman from Pensacola, Fla., called the rivalry “different.”

“I didn’t really understand it, coming from Florida,” he said. “I got to my first one, it was the 12-sack episode when I was a freshman, so I didn’t really get introduced to it in the correct way.

“They got a few victories on us in a row, and I’m just glad to be part of the turnaround. It means a lot to the people in this state and the university, so hopefully, we can continue that tradition.”

Senior Drew Davis said he’s only been in the stands when the Tide has played Auburn, but he knows what to expect for Friday’s Iron Bowl.

“It’s a hostile environment, and they will be hostile for this game,” he said.

Texas-born quarterback Greg McElroy said he didn’t realize the significance of the game until he played in it. Last year, he tossed a touchdown in mop-up duty. This will be his first year as a starter.

“It’s just one of those games when you’re down, it can make or break your season, and if you’re up, it can make or break your season,” he said. “It’s a game we take a lot of pride in. We take a lot of pride in our preparations. They’re a team that can’t be overlooked. They’re a very good football team.”