Win as a team, lose as a team.
It is a mantra that the University of Alabama football program is clinging tightly to after the stinging heartbreak of Saturday night's 34-28 loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl, especially in rallying around kicker Cade Foster.
Foster, a senior from Southlake, Texas, was the recipient of several nasty social media messages after missing two field goals and having another blocked in Alabama's loss to its cross-state rival, which cost UA a shot at playing for a third straight national championship. A few people directed messages at him on Twitter saying they wished he would kill himself or that he would die. Some others wished less lethal harm on him.
Alabama teammates and fans have lashed out at the ill-wishers, and found ways to show their support for Foster.
Several players, including team leaders, responded in defense of their teammate on Twitter.
"Love my team!! Salute to AU players Great program but let me say this we win & lose as a team. If u blame this on 1 guy U aren't a true fan!" senior quarterback AJ McCarron posted.
Fellow kicker Adam Griffith, who booted the 57-yard field goal attempt on the game's final play, which Auburn returned for a game-winning touchdown, posted: "Cade and I work hard in what we do! I got your back no matter what! We're in this together!! Love you cade!"
Foster's support has also come from outside the team. Former heavyweight boxing heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe tweeted to Foster, "u are fine, I am in your corner my man. (These people) have never been in the arena and don't count."
A Facebook fan page was also started in support of Foster entitled "Bama fans supporting Cade Foster," which had more than 48,000 likes as of Sunday night.
Alabama student Kaitlin Goins wrote an open letter to Foster on her blog, which can be found online at kaitlingoins.wordpress.com. In the letter, Goins lets Foster know that real Crimson Tide fans don't hold him responsible for the loss.
"Perhaps, it's the rivalry that brought out the worst in some fans, but blame cannot be placed there. Blame, rather, must be placed on fans," she wrote. "You see, real fans don't boo the kicker off the field after missing a field goal at the most-pressured game in the year at the opponent's stadium. Real fans don't yell hateful comments about any team member, no matter what the error. Real fans stand behind their team all 60 minutes of every game AND every single day of the year.
"...I want to apologize because your fan base did not stand behind you when you needed us the most. So I apologize for all the fake Alabama fans. You have nothing to be ashamed for. And if anyone says you do, show them your two national championship rings and, with class, say, 'I ain't never been nothing but a winner.'"
Not only was Foster enjoying his best season as the Crimson Tide's full-time kicker, making 52 of 52 extra-point attempts and 11 of 12 field goal attempts going into the Auburn game, he has also been a success in the classroom and has taken part in community service.
He graduated in August with a degree in marketing and a 3.28 GPA. He has been a three-time Dean's List honoree and was a 2011 and 2012 SEC Academic Honor Roll member. He has also been involved in charitable endeavors and visited Children's Hospital in Birmingham on behalf of teammate Austin Shepherd's foundation.
Reach Aaron Suttles at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.