As a nod to the late Cecil Hurt, in regard to the story I had mostly ready to go when Alabama got the ball at its own 2-yard line with less than 2 minutes in regulation: “Give me rewrite!”.
Cecil had once written about Alabama’s game-winning drive in the 2009 Alabama-Auburn game, calling it one of, if not the most important drives in the history of the program. At the time, Alabama was knocking on the door of a championship, but none of Nick Saban’s championships had yet been secured. Alabama had gone into Jordan-Hare Stadium as a heavy favorite in Gus Malzahn’s first year as Auburn head coach. Instead, it took a breathtaking last-minute drive and a Greg McElroy touchdown pass to Roy Upchurch in order to seal the deal and send Alabama on to an eventual title-winning matchup against Texas.
It makes you wonder what Cecil would say about this one.
Alabama's 18th national championship is in the books, and with it, the depletion of talent across the Tide's depth chart. While Alabama certainly brings in more elite talent than most other schools, it also loses more, primarily to the NFL Draft but also to the NCAA transfer portal.
For a program accustomed to leading the recruiting rankings and setting records year after year for average class strength, the 2020 class for Alabama was about as ho-hum as top-three/top-four classes can get (TideFans.com/NARCAS ranked Alabama's class in a tie for third with Ohio State, behind No. 2 Clemson and No. 1 Georgia).
I only wish I had been able to tell Cecil this when he was still alive. It is often said that one shouldn't meet their heroes, because the heroes don't always live up to one's expectations. In Cecil's case, however, he proved to be a source of continual inspiration as well as a constant reminder to up my game whenever I could. I don't think he would have been comfortable hearing this from me; he may have considered it the fawning praise of a writer who eventually changed careers and left the daily grind of the fourth estate behind. Unfortunately, I will now never know.
I will, however, do my best to carry on the legacy he gave me, whether he ever knew it or not. I will start with making a modest edit to the phrase that used to ring out across my newsrooms: Praise when it is warranted, always. Only criticize when it is absolutely necessary. You never know who might be reading along with the words you are writing.