The University of Alabama football team saw an advanced screening of "The Blind Side" on Friday night, and needless to say the whole experience got a big thumbs up from the players.
Starring Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw, the movie based on former Ole Miss lineman Michael Oher's life opens Friday and includes a cameo appearance from Nick Saban.
"Not necessarily an Oscar nomination," senior cornerback Javier Arenas said.
"Maybe a Razzie, that might be within reach," junior quarterback Greg McElroy added with a laugh. "
Players said they all roared when Saban first appeared on the screen and between the laughter and the taunting it was hard to hear any of the lines.
"It was hilarious," McElroy said. "Sandra Bullock called him good looking and that made us all jealous, and that gave us even more reason to give him a hard time.
"I didn't say anything, but he was as red as my shirt."
Saban appears as himself when he was the head coach at LSU and recruited Oher. The film's writer-director John Lee Hancock let him change his lines to be more reflective of what he would really say to a prospect.
"He didn't recruit me, so I got a chance to see how he actually goes into someone's house and recruits," Arenas said. "It was an interesting experience in that he was in a movie and in the same theater with us.
"It was an outstanding movie."
Although some have questioned whether Saban should have appeared in the movie representing his former school the players hardly even noticed.
"Nah, we was all looking at Coach Saban," Arenas said. "He said LSU, but I don't think he had any LSU attire on. He wore suits the whole time, it wasn't weird at all.
"We were laughing the whole time. The parts that weren't even funny we were laughing."
The football team usually watches a movie on Friday nights before playing a night game, otherwise holds meetings and heads to bed early for morning and afternoon kickoffs. The special showing was at a theater in Columbus, Miss., before Alabama beat Mississippi State, 31-3.
"It was pretty good," McElroy said. "It was fun to see coach out of his element a little bit. You could tell he was a little bit uncomfortable."
"He seemed to take it pretty well," senior guard Mike Johnson said.
Johnson was named the Southeastern Conference's offensive lineman of the week after not giving up a sack or pressure Saturday, and the entire offensive line didn't have a penalty despite the non-stop cowbells at Mississippi State.
"That was probably the loudest they've been," Johnson said about the crowd. "They did a good job of kind of pushing the team through the first quarter or so. We knew it was going to be a street fight like Coach Saban said. We had to fight through that adversity and push on through that first quarter."
Johnson, who's had some ankle trouble this season, was the last offensive lineman to be named offensive player of the week by the coaching staff, which he shared with Mark Ingram. The defensive honors went to Rolando McClain, Mark Barron and Cory Reamer, while Arenas and Robby Green shared the special-teams award.
Senior linebacker Eryk Anders did not participate in Monday's practice to rest an ankle sprain.
"He's been having it for a while, but was a little bit sore after the game," Saban said. "We need to give him a day or two to try and heal up."
Sophomore Courtney Upshaw appeared to be working with the first unit at Jack linebacker during individual drills.
Junior running back Terry Grant (muscle strain) also did not practice and rode an exercise bike along with the players recovering from major injuries.
Meanwhile, senior tight end Colin Peek (sprained knee) came out of Saturday's game without having a setback.
"He'll continue to play more and more as he gets healthy, but he played in the game and did not show signs of having a problem and he practiced well last week," Saban said.
McClain thinks he's won every coin toss he's called while frequently serving as a team captain. "We decide between the captains who's going to talk and I'm always talking for some reason," McClain said. "(Coach Saban) always tells us what we're going to do before we go out." His strategy? Call tails, "every time."
Don't count Arenas among those surprised that Barron leads the SEC with six interceptions. "He's the type of guy you just need to put out there and let him play ball," he said. "It was obvious. The plays that he makes, he made them in practice, he made them in camp, he made them when he first got here, he made them in high school. He's just carrying on."
McElroy was able to have a little bit of fun with teammates after his keeper end run for 16 yards on the last play of the first quarter. "I was giving Julio (Jones) a hard time that if he makes the block I'm scoring," he said. "But another good thing was that the quarter ended so I got a chance to regain my breath." Four snaps later he hit Darius Hanks for a 45-yard touchdown, but the run was a new wrinkle for the offense. On the flip side, the quarterback said he wasn't real pleased with the two-minute drive just before halftime that didn't result in any points.
McElroy on why he doesn't slide at the end of most runs: "When I do run it's usually third down or I'm close to the chains. If it's third down or in the red zone I don't slide. My body will probably pay the price for it on Sunday, but I'd rather be sore on Sunday than come up short on a key play on Saturday."
Awards list rundown
It's another busy week for the awards.
Monday, the semifinalists were announced for the John Mackey Award for best tight end: Dorin Dickerson, Pittsburgh; Ed Dickson, Oregon; Aaron Hernandez, Florida; Anthony McCoy, Southern California; Tony Moeaki, Iowa; Dennis Pitta, BYU; Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame; Cody Slate, Marshall.
Tuesday, the Walter Camp semifinalists for player of the year will be announced.
Heisman Trophy: Finalists announced Dec. 9.
Maxwell Award (outstanding player): Mark Ingram, semifinalist. Finalists announced Nov. 23.
Walter Camp Award (Player of the year): Semifinalists announced Tuesday.
Butkus Award (linebacker): Rolando McClain, semifinalist. Finalists announced Thursday.
Outland Trophy (interior lineman): Terrence Cody and Mike Johnson on watch list. Finalists announced Nov. 23.
Bednarik Award (defensive player): Cody and McClain, semifinalists. Finalists announced Nov. 23.
Davey O'Brien Award (quarterback): No semifinalists.
Unitas Golden Arm (senior quarterback): Alabama has no one who qualifies.
Doak Walker Award (running back): Ingram, semifinalist. Finalists named Nov. 23.
Fred Biletnikoff Award (wide receiver): No semifinalists.
Jim Thorpe Award (defensive back): Javier Arenas, semifinalist. Finalists announced Nov. 23.
John Mackey Award (tight end): No semifinalists.
Lou Groza Award (kicker): Leigh Tiffin, semifinalist. Finalists announced Nov. 23.
Bronki Nagusrki Award (defensive player): Finalists announced Thursday. Arenas, Cody and McClain are all on the watch list.
Ray Guy Award (punter): No semifinalists.
Rotary Lombard Award (lineman): Cody finalist. Winner announced Dec. 9.
Ted Hendricks Award (defensive end): Midseason watch list announced in mid-November. No Alabama players were on the preseason watch list.
Lott Trophy (defensive impact player): McClain semifinalist. Finalists announced Nov. 24.
Rimington Trophy (center): Finalists announced Nov. 23.
Eddie Robinson Award (coach): Finalists announced Dec. 9.
George Munger Award (coach): Nick Saban, semifinalist. Finalists announced Nov. 23.
Broyles Award (assistant coach): Finalists announced Nov. 30.
Walter Campbell Trophy (scholar-athlete, formerly known as the Draddy Trophy): No finalists. Colin Peek was a semifinalist.