Over the past couple of days there have been some arguments on BR concerning the direction of the Alabama football program and the leadership of these young men under the watchful eye of head coach Nick Saban.
While the program experienced some setbacks early on under Saban, things are beginning to take shape. The following is a great story about running back Roy Upchurch.
Upchurch was one of the young men in Saban's dog house at the beginning of the season, but after buying in to the "process" under his head coach, Roy has turned his life and his football career around.
I hope you enjoy the read, and maybe some of the detractors can see what we as Alabama fans have known since the arrival of coach Nick Saban.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
By IAN R. RAPOPORT
News Staff Writer
TUSCALOOSA- Alabama running back Roy Upchurch never had the opportunity to meet Micah Edwards, a 14-year-old from Warrior who was one of his biggest fans.
He didn't know that he kept a picture of Upchurch in his desk at North Jefferson Middle School.
All he knew was what his mother learned on the news. By then, it was too late.
Edwards and his grandmother, Juanita Sue Calvert, died tragically on Oct. 17 when their mobile home caught fire. When the smoke cleared, the two were found huddled in Calvert's bedroom, and experts speculated that Edwards did not want her to die alone.
On the verge of tears after watching Fox 6, Upchurch's mother called her son to tell him of a grandson who loved his grandma as much as he did.
The 6-foot, 201-pound junior rushed for a career-high 86 yards in the second-ranked Crimson Tide's 29-9 win over Tennessee Saturday, doing so with the words "R.I.P. Micah" on his left wrist tape.
"That was my inspiration," Upchurch said. "It really touched me, touched my heart. I dedicated the other night to him."
The Tallahassee native is carving out a niche in Alabama's running attack, whether learning to play fullback or providing fresh legs to help decimate a defense. After gaining 282 yards on 62 carries his first two seasons, he already has 304 yards on 51 carries with three touchdowns this season.
He is also a special teams standout, leading returner Javier Arenas to mention that he'll look up and see Upchurch "abusing his guy. I'm sure opponents hate to go against Roy."
The tough side met the soft side when he learned Edwards' story.
A similar story: The more Terissa Upchurch Butler told her son, the more he felt for Edwards. The fact that his picture was found in the desk of Edwards, a Crimson Tide fan, was too much.
"Roy was like, `Mom, you're going to make me cry,'" said Upchurch Butler, who works and lives in Tuscaloosa. "I said, `Roy, that's OK.' It was just so amazing."
But it was the boy's love for his grandmother with which Upchurch could empathize. Upchurch, after all, spent 18 months in high school living with his grandmother, Gladys Garner.
The 71-year-old was in failing health, and none of her adult children could care for her full time. Upchurch volunteered, then spent a long time convincing his mother to allow him to do so.
"Finally, he said, `I can't not go over there and look after her,'" Upchurch Butler recalled. "He broke down and cried. I had no choice. Roy just cares about people."
He rose at 4 a.m., cooked her breakfast, gave her medication, went to school, went to football practice, became a Parade All-American, came home, and repeated it the next day.
When Garner passed away in 2001, Upchurch began spending Christmases participating in a clothing
drive for the elderly in her honor.
"I saw the story," his mother said, "and I knew it would touch his heart. It reminded me of how Roy was with his grandma."
With Edwards, Upchurch felt a kinship. The teenager had stayed home from school that day to care for the 55-year-old Calvert.
"And he wouldn't leave his grandmother in a fire," Upchurch said, shaking his head.
Mary Beth Blankenship, the principal at North Jefferson Middle School in Kimberly where Edwards was an eighth-grader, described him as "a really nice guy who had a really good heart. I don't know of anybody who didn't like Micah. And he was a big Alabama fan, which helped Roy make the connection."
On Thursday at 2 p.m., a joint funeral is scheduled at Messmer Goodwin Funeral Home Chapel, with the burial in Elvester Cemetery.
To pay his respects, Upchurch sent a signed a football and a note to the family. His mother wanted to make sure the remaining family members knew "they're in our thoughts and prayers. It's something we certainly won't forget."
Buying into Saban way:
In Upchurch, Edwards had a role model.
But before this year, that might have been difficult.
Upchurch's behavior wasn't always consistent with this kind-hearted display. Ask him why he was in coach Nick Saban's dog house last year, and Upchurch is honest.
He didn't buy in to what Saban wanted.
"Playing for Coach Saban, it's been a bumpy road," Upchurch said recently. "But once you figure out what he wants you to do on and off the field, it kind of just smoothes out and all the problems go away. It was me, seeing the light."
It wasn't just football. Upchurch has come a long way academically. It was all related.
"Most of the time," Saban said, "(people) aren't one kind of character in one part of their life and another kind of character some place else. I don't think these things change in a day. They change over time. Roy is one of the great examples in the program of a guy who has made significant amount of changes that have impacted him positively as a person."
Upchurch said he altered his life because he simply felt awful being at the bottom of the depth Grechart. He was frustrated, because he knew his talent level.
"And you know you can help a good football team," he said. "Now, I'm doing right in (everything), and I'm winning right now."
Somewhere, Edwards is cheering. Check out Rapoport's blog at blog.al.com/rapsheet