From rivals to teammates
Published: Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 3:22 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 3:22 p.m.
MOBILE, Ala. — As the South team gathered around Tony Sparano at the end of practice earlier this week, the Miami Dolphins coach surprised the six Alabama players on the team when he ordered them to sing the Tide fight song.
To their credit, Javier Arenas, Terrence Cody, Mike Johnson, Leigh Tiffin, Roy Upchurch and Colin Peek started belting out the tune. They even knew the words.
But their performance quickly drew some boos.
Could it have been the Florida boys — quarterback Tim Tebow and wide receiver Riley Cooper?
They had reason to boo after what Alabama did to Florida back in December in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.
But Tebow booing?
"I don't know if he did or not," Johnson said. "It sounded like a big crowd.
"We tried to get everybody to chime in, but they didn't want anything to do with it. We got booed. I thought it sounded good, but they didn't like it."
The booing was good natured, and it could have come from several sources — because there are other players representing other teams here that also lost to Alabama last season, including Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Kentucky.
These guys are all teammates now, and they're having a little fun at each other's expense. The Florida and Alabama players seem to be hitting it off particularly well, despite that one-sided Tide victory in the SEC title game.
The rivals have become teammates.
"We're getting along really well," Tebow said. "They're good guys. We've had fun, trash-talking back and forth and giving each other a hard time. It's been a lot of fun. When we break down (after a play), they say, 'Go Alabama.' They've been trying to get me to say that, but I haven't yet. It's been fun."
Tebow and Arenas have been jawing back and forth the whole week. In Alabama's 32-13 victory, Arenas intercepted an underthrown Tebow pass in the end zone in the fourth quarter. Arenas hasn't let Tebow forget.
"I've been trying to teach him to throw the ball high," Arenas said.
Arenas said he's honored to call Tebow a teammate now.
"He's an outstanding football player, an outstanding person," he said. "It's an honor just to be associated with someone like that. I can tell people I played with him in an all-star game. I think it gives me credibility."
Arenas has a new buddy in Tebow. But he can't get the Gator to sing the Tide fight song.
"He knows the fight song," Arenas said. "But he didn't want to let it come out of his mouth."
It probably would have been easier to coax Tebow to sing along if the Gators had won that game in Atlanta. But that didn't happen.
Looking back on the SEC Championship Game, Arenas and Johnson said it was a game the Tide had been pointing to and preparing for for a year. UF's comeback win over Alabama in the 2008 title game served as Alabama's offseason motivation.
"We worked so hard for that moment," Johnson said. "We put a year's worth of effort into that. That was our (national) championship game. That's what we put all our efforts into. They were supposed to be the greatest team of the decade, two-time national champions with so many All-Americans and starters returning.
"We put all our efforts into winning that game, and we accomplished it."
Arenas said the Tide was so focused on themselves, so focused on preparation to win the game, that All-America defensive end Carlos Dunlap's DUI arrest in Gainesville the Tuesday before the game was pretty much ignored in Tuscaloosa.
"It meant nothing," Arenas said. "That game was huge for us. Winning was huge. To beat someone like Tebow and a team as great as they are, with a great leader, a great coach and all that talent, it was a tremendous accomplishment."
It's worth singing over. Just don't ask the Gators to join in this week at the Senior Bowl.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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