Coaches Pick Seven, Disney Names Team

After a somewhat pedestrian win over mid-major power Georgia Southern, Alabama's football coaches recognized seven Crimson Tide players. Following last April's devastating Tuscaloosa tornado, Disney Sports recognized the Alabama football team with the 2011 Disney Spirit Award, given annually by Disney Sports to college football's most inspirational player or team.

Alabama, ranked second in the nation and preparing for its annual cross state rivalry game, took a 45-21 win over Georgia Southern to run the Crimson Tide record to 10-1. Alabama players recognized by the coaching staff were tailback Trent Richardson, wide receiver Brandon Gibson, and H-back Brad Smelley on offense; safety Mark Barron on defense; and Dont'a Hightower, Kelly Johnson, and Vinnie Sunseri on special teams.

Richardson rushed for 175 yards and two scores on 32 carries to pace the Alabama offense. He also caught a four-yard touchdown pass. Richardson, who currently leads the SEC in rushing, broke Shaun Alexander's school record for rushing touchdowns and now has 20 on the year. He is tied for second on the SEC single-season in terms of rushing touchdowns behind only Tim Tebow's 2007 total of 23. Smelley and Gibson led all receivers with four catches each on Senior Day. Smelley totaled 58 yards with two touchdowns while Gibson recorded 49 total receiving yards.

Barron once again led the team in tackles with eight primary stops. The senior safety helped the defense hold the Eagles to 122 yards and no points in the second half as their only score came on a kickoff return. Alabama held Georgia Southern to 2-of-9 on third downs and leads the nation in all four major defensive categories.

Johnson assisted on three tackles on kickoff coverage, including one stop inside the 20. Hightower caused a 10-point swing in the game when he blocked a field goal that was returned for a touchdown by Dre Kirkpatrick. Hightower was also credited with six tackles. Sunseri had one official tackle on special teams and recorded a key block on kickoff return. He played on the kickoff, kickoff return, and punt return teams.

In Lake Buena Vista, Fla., the Crimson Tide was honored with the 2011 Disney Spirit Award for its response to the tornado that struck Tuscaloosa on April 27.

Junior long snapper Carson Tinker, whose girlfriend was killed in the tornado and who suffered severe injuries, will accept the award on behalf of the Bama team, which has been involved in numerous ways to help rebuild the community.

In announcing the award, Disney Sports pointed out that Tinker "put his own loss aside to visit with a 10-year-old boy who lost his mother, father and sister in the twister. Linebacker Courtney Upshaw raised nearly $20,000 in relief funds in his hometown of Eufaula, while tight end Preston Dial loaded up an 18-wheeler and drove in supplies from Mobile. Offensive lineman Barrett Jones lugged a chain saw around Tuscaloosa to remove debris from homes and yards. And The University of Alabama Athletics Department contributed $1 million to the UA Acts of Kindness Fund, which provides relief to faculty, staff, and students of The University of Alabama who are experiencing hardship."

"This award does not represent me," Tinker said. "It represents our team, our University and the Tuscaloosa community. Everyone reached out and pulled together as a family in the face of this tragedy. The tornado took so much from us, but with a spirit of hope and a lot of hard work, we have begun the healing process. I am very proud of how this team and this community rallied together after such a devastating storm."

Alabama Coach Nick Saban's charity, Nick's Kids, has been particularly active in rebuilding homes in the Holt area, which was one of the hardest hit by the tornado.

Saban said, "I think it really speaks well for The University of Alabama. It speaks well for a lot of people in the organization who made a significant contribution to trying to help people in the community who needed help, who were affected by probably as devastating a circumstance as I've ever had to deal with in my life. Carson Tinker, who is also named, who has done a lot of community service, probably lost the most and has given the most. I'm very proud to be a part of this and I think a lot of other people should be as well. I think it's the way we should do things and think I'm proud of the example we try to set in helping our community. I'm talking about The University as a whole, and the football program as a whole."

"The compassion and generosity that these young men displayed were instrumental in the rebuilding efforts of a community in dire need of physical as well as emotional help, and Disney Sports is proud to honor them for their contributions," said Disney Sports executive Faron Kelley. "The Crimson Tide and the University of Alabama have shown that sports can have a healing power far beyond the field or court."

Kelley will present the award, along with a special video message from 2010 Disney Spirit Award winner D.J. Williams, during The Home Depot College Football Awards at Walt Disney World Resort on Dec. 8. The 21st annual awards show is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. CT and will be televised live on ESPN.

Tinker and his teammates become the 16th recipient of the award, joining past honorees Daniel Huffman (1996), Dwight Collins (1997), Matt Hartl (1998), East Carolina University (1999), Hameen Ali (2000), the United States Service Academy football teams (2001), DeWayne White (2002), Neil Parry (2003), Tim Frisby (2004), the Tulane University football team (2005), University of Louisville band member Patrick Henry Hughes (2006), Zerbin Singleton (2007), Tim Tebow (2008), Mark Herzlich (2009) and Williams (2010).

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