Alabama football: Award finalists Fitzpatrick, Scott happy to get second chance in College Football Playoffs
ATLANTA — He assumed it’d be full, but when Minkah Fitzpatrick entered the Alabama locker room early Sunday morning, only Jared Mayden and Tyrell Shavers greeted him.
The trio sat on the couch. Fitzpatrick held a towel, heart racing and nervousness growing with each passing second. ESPN revealed the first three teams selected for the College Football Playoff.
“Then they had that little pause and put up all those stats and graphics,” Fitzpatrick said Wednesday. “I got up and I started pacing, walking back and forth.”
Crimson overtook the screen and the Alabama “A” appeared.
“Once they showed that, I started screaming,” Fitzpatrick said. “Threw my towel, going crazy. It was fun.”
Three miles away inside his Tuscaloosa apartment, JK Scott lay asleep. He knew what time the selection show began. Knew the fate that would be decided when it aired — a chance to end his final season of collegiate football at the sport’s highest stage against the team that left it heartbroken last season.
Still, he slept.
“I just was trying to get rest,” Scott said.
Twenty text messages alerted him of the good news as he awoke.
“It felt like a second chance to prove who we are as a team,” Scott said. “In our last game and through the season especially, we’ve kind of had a lot of injuries. Guys were kind of worn out and I don’t think we’ve been at our best. But come the Sugar Bowl, I think we’ll have an opportunity to be at our best.”
For that to occur, both Scott and Fitzpatrick are crucial. Both appeared Wednesday evening inside the College Football Hall of Fame on the eve of the Home Depot College Football Awards Show, during which they will find out whether their regular-season exploits yielded extra acclaim.
Fitzpatrick is a finalist for both the Chuck Bednarik Award, given annually to the defensive player of the year, and the Jim Thorpe Award, which honors the country’s best defensive back. He traveled to Charlotte on Monday, too, to attend the Bronko Nagurski Award presentation.
North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb won instead.
Thursday, Fitzpatrick could become the first Alabama player to win the Thorpe Award since Antonio Langham in 1993.
“It’d honestly be a dream come true for real,” Fitzpatrick said. “When I was in high school, I remember watching some people win this award and compete for this award and the ceremony. I had dreams of winning that award and being able to be here is an honor and blessing for real.”
Scott is a Ray Guy Award finalist. He was a finalist as a freshman, though little is the same three years later for the Crimson Tide’s eclectic punter who has meticulous details for every point of his game.
“My previous years I was so focused on hitting big balls with a lot of distance,” said Scott, who focused this season on inflating his hangtime. “Ideally, if you can get a ball high enough and you can intimidate the returner enough, you could have our guys running down there and get in his face and hopefully somebody drops a ball one day.”
Scott kept a gaggle of reporters from around the country smiling. He meant no offense to New Orleans or the Sugar Bowl, but he said the Crescent City is not one of his favorite bowl destinations.
He detailed the botched snap in Alabama’s 26-14 Iron Bowl loss against Auburn, which resulted in the first completion of Scott’s life — a minus-9 yard throw to place-kicker Andy Pappanastos that elicited laughs all around.
That’s the luxury of a time like this. Nine days remain until the Tide begin bowl preparations. Scott and Fitzpatrick were afforded a rare night off, finishing the interviews before being whisked away to a banquet leading up to tomorrow’s ESPN telecast.
Scott will actually watch this one.
“I would be honored and I’m honored to even be considered for it,” Scott said of the Ray Guy Award. “It’d be cool to win it.”