TUSCALOOSA | D.J. Fluker had heard it before from his coaching staff; that anybody on the team can show leadership.
That message didn't quite sink in for the University of Alabama offensive lineman in his first three years on campus, but the fourth-year junior has embraced the concept in the preseason.
"I've always had it; I just didn't know when my time would come, like, to step up and say, 'Hey guys, let's get together' and know when to lead," Fluker said. "Because we already had leaders like Rolando McClain, Barrett Jones, Vlachos. We had great leaders already. I really didn't know when my time would come. But now that I see the opportunity to get it, why not take advantage of it?"
Fluker has been the most vocal of Alabama's offensive linemen in fall camp, and doesn't plan to stop once the season begins. UA coach Nick Saban said he didn't peg Fluker for the leadership type when he first arrived on campus as a freshman, but the coach indicated the right tackle has flourished as a leader since then.
"He's much more outgoing in terms of his willingness to affect other people. He has really affected our offense in a positive way not only with his performance but his enthusiasm, attention to deatil and intensity," Saban said. "The way he goes about things and demands that people do it the same way."
Running back Eddie Lacy said Fluker's attitude has been infectious in the preseason.
"He's a ball of energy. A big ball of energy," Lacy said. "I mean, we come out to practice at camp, there's days when you're just not feeling it, but once you get around Fluker and he gets that energy going, it's like a chain reaction. Next thing you know, everybody's ready to go out and practice, all because of D.J. Fluker."
As for his physical skills, Fluker's play matches his demands. He is UA's biggest starter on the offensive line at 335 pounds, and was named to the preseason All-Southeastern Conference team.
"D.J. is one of the most physical players we've ever had here or anywhere. He reminds me of Flozell Adams at Michigan State, way back when," Saban said. "He's big, he's physical, he works hard, he gets movement. He's really improved his quickness and his ability to pass block."
Reach Chase Goodbread at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0196.