TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Nick Saban called it one of the greatest rivalry games in college football.
For some players from the state of Alabama, the Iron Bowl means something more. Crimson Tide starting offensive lineman Javion Cohen went to Central High School in Phenix City, Alabama, about 45 minutes from the Auburn campus.
Cohen was a former Tigers player before joining the Crimson Tide and celebrated Alabama’s Iron Bowl victory at Jordan-Hare Stadium last year.
A few weeks later, he posted a video on social media of himself trolling Auburn with the “Crimson Crane” while the Tigers practiced for the Birmingham Bowl. Cohen said he wanted to take things with a little more athleticism this time but understood how much this game means.
“It’s a huge game, not just for me, but for this entire facility, for the entire state of Alabama,” Cohen said Tuesday. “Everyone knows the impact of this game, regardless of the record, regardless of where we are. We all know this is a game you want to win. It’s a resume game. And I plan on fighting as hard as I can and trying to make sure that myself and my teammates get back to the Alabama standard.
Cohen is one of 45 players on the Alabama State Crimson Tide roster, along with kicker Will Reichard, defensive back Kool-Aid McKinstry and defensive lineman DJ Dale.
Despite not growing up an Alabama fan, Dale recognizes the importance of the game.
“It’s something in the game you dream of playing as a kid from Birmingham, so it’s a dream come true,” said Dale.
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Last season, a true freshman for Alabama, McKinstry made the crucial stop on defense in the fourth overtime that set up the game-winning two-point conversion from Bryce Young to John Metchie III. Will Anderson Jr. said last year’s game contains his two fondest memories from the Iron Bowl.
“When Kool-Aid got that stop, he deflected the pass in the end zone, and then when Bryce went down, the offense went down and scored,” Anderson said. “I think those two moments were the greatest moments of all time. That’s just as a team. I was so happy… Those moments right there are moments that you cherish forever because those are the moments that you spend with your brothers that you spent all the offseason working hard with.”
Young grew up in California, but he doesn’t shy away from the importance of the game, even after cementing his name as an Iron Bowl legend with his comeback last season.
For the first time since 2018, Alabama will play the Iron Bowl in front of a full crowd at Bryant-Denny Stadium as the last home game of the series had limited seating due to COVID. Players are excited for the opportunity to cement another chapter in the rivalry’s legacy this Saturday.
“The history of this rivalry is something that will continue, whether I’m here or going, that’s just part of it,” Cohen said. “Of course it would be wise to show some sportiness. But it’s a new year, a new season and just ready to end the week 1-0.”
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