TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama’s Javier Arenas said he knows there will be a time when he looks back on his accomplishments.
The Tide return specialist set a Southeastern Conference record during Saturday’s 45-0 win against Tennessee-Chattanooga with his 66-yard punt return for a touchdown.
It marked the seventh punt return for a touchdown of Arenas’ career, breaking the mark of six set by Kentucky’s Derek Abney (2000-03).
“I think that’s for when you’re sitting in the rocking chair and you’re old and you get cocky and tell everybody you got the SEC record,” Arenas said. “Until that moment, you keep moving forward. You think about it every once in a while to build your confidence up.”
Early in the second quarter, Arenas fielded a Mike Hammons punt, slipped one tackle, got a couple of nice blocks, then sprinted down the home sideline to the end zone. It marked the first punt return for a score for Arenas this season. His last one came in the Sugar Bowl.
It was a long time coming, he said, but “very satisfying.”
It wasn’t exactly the best scenario for scoring a touchdown, Arenas said.
“He was kicking the ball real awkward, (and) on top of that, the sun caught me,” he said. “I saw the ball the ball at the last second. I’m like, ‘What the hell, just catch it and go.’ I caught it and went.”
Leading up to the UTC game, Arenas said he’d like to come up with a touchdown or two. He came close to reaching his goal. Late in the second quarter, he picked off a B.J. Coleman pass, but came up about two steps shy of a second touchdown. That’s about how close he was to breaking away and returning the pick for six points, but he was corralled by a Mocs player after a 22-yard return.
“Unfortunately, he caught me, so I had to settle for one,” Arenas said.
Arenas is also closing in on a couple of other marks. His career punt return yardage total stands at 1,658 yards, ranking him second in SEC history behind Vanderbilt’s Lee Nalley, who had 1,695 yards (1947-49).
He’s also closing in on the NCAA record of 1,751 held by Texas Tech’s Wes Welker (2000-03). Nalley is second all-time nationally and Arenas third.
The 5-foot-9, 198-pound Arenas said when he looks back on his accomplishments, it’s not with a sense of having proven people wrong about what he could do.
“I don’t like to look at it like that,” he said. “I just look at it as I worked hard. I think it influenced other people, and that’s just given me momentum for life to keep working hard, to keep pushing, to keep striving. I can do anything I want to do.”
Coach Nick Saban wasn’t exactly up on what Arenas accomplished, but offered his praise for the record-setting returner.
“We’re happy for him,” Saban said. “He’s made a lot of big plays, and it’s good for him to make a big play (Saturday). We had to do a lot of adjusting out there because there was a lot of new stuff that we had to see.
“I was really pleased with the way the guys adjusted. One of the adjustments we made was the quads formation, all four receivers on the same side. (That) was what Javy did there when he made the interception. The ability to make adaptations like that and go and execute them is a great credit to all our players.”
It will definitely be something for Arenas to remember while he rocks.