Former UA offensive guard Griff Redmill was a three-year starter for the Crimson Tide from 1998-2000. The following are his recollections of fall camp and the three mile markers that span the journey from day one to the close of camp.
Even for veterans like Barrett Jones and Alfred McCullough, fall camp is no picnic.
For the players, I don’t think anything defines college football more than fall camp. Actually, they call it “fall camp”, but it’s a far cry from the cool weather and the changing of the leaves associated with autumn. Down south, these are the hottest days of the year. Not every player wins a championship; not every player is on a winning team; but they all have to go through camp. Everyone that has played can relate to this.
Depending on the situation, different guys have different emotions leading into camp. One would think that a guy who has already proven his ability and solidified himself as a starter would be in the least stressful position of others on the 105-man roster.
But, one thing is certain in college football: once a team signs you, they are immediately looking for a guy that is better than you. Even though you’ve put in all the off-season work, done all the extra things and earned the starting job, there is never room to relax.
Then there’s the guy who knows he’s got to scrap for every rep he can get and make the most of them in hopes of getting his shot. Knowing that one or two missed assignments may convince your coach to move on and work to get the next guy prepared keeps a reserve on edge. Either situation can be a stressful for a 20-year-old to handle. But competition breeds success and that’s why the formula works.
For everyone involved, the hardest part of camp is the first few days. Even though the off-season and summer programs are very intense, the daily atmosphere of camp is very different for the players. While the off-season program is usually the most grueling, there is a limited amount of time coaches can have with the guys at the facility due to NCAA regulations.
Players don’t have the grind of the regular season practice and game schedule in the off-season. The summer program is also challenging but is eased somewhat by breaks between each term. The players get more opportunities to go home or enjoy doing other things during the summer.
When camp arrives, it is a total shock to your daily life.
There are no students on campus, no other campus activities going on. It’s more like a ghost town than a normal college campus. It’s just you, your teammates, your coaches and your alarm clock. In case your alarm clock didn’t work, we always had Tank Connerly (long-time UA equipment manager), who took great pleasure in waking you up via air horn at 5:00 AM, to serve in that role. Trust me, it was a very unpleasant experience.
After making it through the first five days or so, it starts becoming clear who is emerging as starters and who will filter into back-up roles. At this point, the players kind of settle into their new temporary lifestyle: wake-up, eat, practice, eat, meet, practice, nap, meet, practice, eat and finally sleep. The most coveted of all those "activities" is sleep.
It continues with this robotic pattern through the duration of camp. These are the toughest days of the year for the players (and probably the staff, too). Not only because of the rigorous physical demands, but also the monotony of a seemingly never-ending grind.
However, these are also the days you prepared for from February to July. Guys start settling into their positions on the depth chart. The plan for who is going to play, where and how much, will usually be established here and barring a significant event, won’t change much throughout the course of the season.
Start of fall classes
As a guy who didn’t necessarily “enjoy” class, I think I can speak for all my former teammates when I say the start of fall classes was probably the most glorious day of August.
This date signified a few different things. It’s the end of the brutal grind that is two-a-days or three-a-days (NCAA rules when Redmill played at UA didn't limit number of practices per day). It gives guys a renewed excitement knowing they’ve made it through and now it’s also the time to reap the rewards of what you’ve worked for. It’s time to enjoy the role you’ve earned or reflect on what you’ll do differently in the future to improve your chances for the next opportunity.
In order to put the quality team on the field that Alabama fans have come to expect, camp is a necessary evil. Nobody would volunteer to go through it again. But it is a great feeling of accomplishment when you get through it.
Follow Griff on twitter at: @papermill75