Carson Tinker didn’t hear “emotions.” He said, “I wasn’t going through the motions. That’s not a good thing.”
When the tornado hit the home in which Tinker was living, it caused him serious injuries, a broken wrist and badly injured ankle, both requiring surgery. He also received facial cuts that left scars. Far worse was that his girlfriend, Ashley Harrison, who was also in the home, was killed.
Ordinarily, a snapper is not noticed unless something goes wrong on a punt, field goal, or extra point snap. That is likely to change when Alabama opens the 2011 football season Saturday. Crimson Tide fans seem to be even more ready than usual for football, and they are aware of Tinker’s story.
Recognition for the upcoming junior from Murfreesboro, Tenn., is not likely to come from a bad snap. Last year, he had 123 opportunities and was good on 122 of them – 58 extra points, 24 field goals, and 40 punts.
“Carson has done a great job," said Alabama Coach Nick Saban. "If you were around Carson in practice, he’s an upbeat guy. You’d never know anything had happened at all. He’s probably handled this as well as anybody could.
“We certainly try to give him every support we could, his teammates have, we as coaches have, and used other people to try to help him manage what he has had to go through, not only the injuries he sustained and the loss he had personally.
“Those were difficult times. These have been difficult times for a lot of people. Those of us who weren’t affected have spent most of our time trying to support those who were and our team has certainly done that, I think, in the community as well as with Carson. And he has done a phenomenal job in bouncing back and has done a good job for us.”
And Tinker is ready for the season opener on Saturday.
“I’ve been looking forward to that day for a very long time,” he said. “Not just that day. The season. Every day I’ve been working to get ready for the season, and it’s here and I’m ready.
“You can’t put into words how that feels.
“When I was doing my rehab and doing all the things that I needed to do to get healthy, that’s what I thought about – running out of that tunnel and playing football.”
Tinker, who lived for a while in his high school years in Decatur, Ga., said that he has received a great deal of support from the public. As a measure of how he thinks, he related one of the fall camp lessons learned from speaker Dr. Kevin Elko.
“He says that some people pray for blessings, but that we can pray to be a blessing for somebody,” Tinker said. “I do. I want to reach out to everyone that I can and inspire them, because there are a lot of people that have been through similar things that I’ve been through. If I can help them, I’m all for that.”
Through the devastation of the tornado and the difficulty of his personal recovery, Tinker said football has always been important.
"It is very motivating to know that my teammates are out there running and working hard and it inspires me to work hard because I know those guys are counting on me, depending on me to get healthy," he said. "I never thought that I wasn’t going to come back. I always knew that I was going to get healthy and I was going to play.”
Tinker said it has been a return to normalcy in some respects. His coaches, he said, treat him just the way they always have.
“They’re not feeling sorry for me,” he said. “I haven’t been doing bad, but they always demand your very best. It’s comforting to know you’re out there getting yelled at. I guess that sounds weird, but that has been therapy.”
Alabama opens the season at Bryant-Denny Stadium this Saturday against Kent State. Kickoff is scheduled for 11:21 a.m. CDT with regional television coverage on the SEC Network. The Tide went through a final two-hour practice in full gear last Saturday before having Sunday off and getting into game week.
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