Heisman Trophy winner to attend grandfather’s funeral
By MICHAEL CASAGRANDE
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — One of Alabama’s biggest stars will not be around for Sunday’s Fan Day.
Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram left early from Friday’s practice to fly home to Flint, Mich., to attend the Saturday funeral service of his grandfather. Coach Nick Saban said he’d return to Tuscaloosa on Sunday night, after the Fan Day festivities wrap up late in the afternoon.
Arthur Lee Johnson, 75, passed away July 31 in a Flint hospital. Funeral services are scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday in Michigan.
Ingram was in Flint last week and had a chance to visit with his grandfather before he passed away last Saturday.
“(Ingram) was very close to him,” Saban said. “He was a big part of their family.”
On the night Ingram won his Heisman Trophy last December, Johnson was in the audience and was happy to give interviews to any media source willing to listen in the aftermath. He was a football player himself in the 1950s and 60s.
Johnson played on both sides of the ball at Michigan State from 1956-58. As a running back in 1957, he scored seven touchdowns and seven yards a carry, according to the website of the Greater Flint Afro-American Hall of Fame. He went on to play in the Canadian Football League where he tied a league record with four interceptions in a single game a team record he still holds with the Toronto Argonauts.
Through two days of practice, the heat is getting to a few of the Alabama football players.
Kendall Kelly didn’t practice Friday after having “heat issues” Thursday, Saban said.
“Nothing real serious, but we did check him out,” Saban said. “We’re probably going to hold him for a day or two to make sure he recovers properly from that.”
Temperatures were in the mid-90s when the team hit the practice field at 2:30 p.m. Friday with the heat index in triple digits and it was close to that range during Thursday morning’s first practice of the year.
“The first day was kind of hectic a little chaos,” linebacker Dont’a Hightower said. “The heat kinda got to a lot guys at the end of practice & so we didn’t really finish the way we wanted to. Today, the guys came in with the right mentality and the right mindset and the right focus. We had way less mental errors than yesterday.”
Another 2:30 p.m. practice is scheduled for today and the forecasted temperature of 94 degrees doesn’t appear to be hot enough to send them indoors.
“It’s kind of been my experience to sorta try to persevere early and players get more used to it,” Saban said. “And then you can back off rather than say ‘OK, it’s hot today. Let’s go inside.’ & We’re taking breaks in practice, making sure the players are hydrated.”
The surgically repaired knee of running back Jeramie Griffin is continuing to cause trouble.
Saban said the junior failed his physical due to lingering effects from the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered last August.
“He is being medically evaluated right now as to what he’s going to do in the future,” Saban said. “That’s going to be decided very quickly.”
Griffin tore his ACL in a non-contact drill Aug. 12, 2009 when poor weather forced the team to practice inside.
True freshman tight end Harrison Jones will delay his enrollment until January after fellow signee Blake Sims grabbed the final roster spot Thursday.
The brother of starting offensive lineman Barrett Jones was one of two tight ends signed to the February class along with Brian Vogler.
“He’s looking forward to the opportunity,” Barrett Jones said Friday. “Stuff like this happens sometimes and he understands and he’s willing to do what’s best for the team.”