Fluker Had Reasons To Decide To Stay

One would expect a fellow standing 6-foot-6 and weighing 335 pounds to be able to make a splash. D.J. Fluker is one of the few who fit that description, and Fulker did make a splash because he did NOT jump into the pool.

When Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker announced in December that Internet speculation was wrong, and that he was not intending to declare for the National Football League draft this spring, it created ripples of excitement among Crimson Tide football fans.

And it pleased Bama Coach Nick Saban, who thought Fluker made the correct decision to forego the draft and to announce his plan. "I think he wanted to put it to rest because it bothered him that people kept talking about it," Saban said. "It was his decision to do it."

Fluker had the benefit of good advice. Word on the street has been that if Fluker came out this year, he would be a second or third round draft choice. Wait a year, say the NFL sources, and he's likely to be a top ten pick. That's a difference of considerable Banjamin Franklins.

Saban confirmed that somewhat. He explained that he personally gathers information from NFL teams regarding the likely draft status of players. "We've done a pretty good job of that, because every guy who has gone out (early) the last couple of years has been a first round draft pick," the coach said.

He's likely to have a handful of juniors headed to the NFL again this year – notably tailback Trent Richardson, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, and linebacker Dont'a Hightower. Although Fluker is a sophomore in football eligibility, he was redshirted in 2009 and thus is a third year man and eligible for the NFL draft.

Saban said non-senior players who project as second or third round players can benefit from staying in school – developing their football skills, and also getting closer to graduation. Saban noted graduation "is really, really important, because the day is coming when someone is going to tell those guys, ‘You can't play anymore.'

"That's our philosophy. And that's how we manage our team and players, and that's how we recruit them.

"And I think based on the information we had, D.J. made a really mature decision about his readiness and the business part of what he should do relative to his development."

Saban added, "Our guys have done a really good job of shutting all of this stuff down, focusing on the game."

The game Fluker, Saban, and the rest of the Alabama nation is focusing on is the BCS National Championship Game against LSU in New Orleans on Jan. 9.

Saban said, "D.J. is really a good person. He's hard-working; really has a lot of pride in his performance. It's really important for him to get it right. He's very conscientious in every thing he does. I don't think he's ever been in my office one time in the years he has been here that he didn't do, or try to do, the right way. He doesn't miss class, doesn't get into trouble, doesn't have issues off the field. He has a lot or respect for coaches and people in positions of authority. He really tries to do things right and is very respectful. I really can't say enough good things about the kind of person he is."

Fluker's teammate (and a potential NFL draft choice, even though he has a year of eligibility remaining), Barrett Jones, said, "D.J. is so big, but he's such a nice kid. He's always got a smile on his face, always laughing about something. He's so big that you expect him to be this big tough guy – and he is tough – but he's always in a good mood and always bringing a good attitude."

Fluker has been a two-year starter (except for missing a couple of games in 2010 with a groin injury). "I'm feeling good," he said. He noted that the off-time Alabama had before getting back to practice this week had been good for players to mend from aches and pains. "We're on a roll now," he said. "We're all back to 100 per cent."

Fluker attributes "taking care of my body" to staying on the field this year. "Eating the right thing, staying in rehab," he said. "I feel great. My weight is down. I haven't had any problems this season. I'm focusing on things I need to do as a player, and that's really helped my game."

Although Fluker is listed as being from Foley, where he played his final year of high school football, he lived in New Orleans, where this year's BCS National Championship Game will be played.

Fluker said that LSU, which defeated Alabama in regular season play (9-6 in overtime), presents a challenge. "They are a good team," Fluker said. "They have a decent defensive line. They are going to come out and play. We have to play the same game we played last time except a whole lot better and a whole lot more focused on our assignments."

Fluker said there is a benefit to having a lot of time to prepare for LSU. He watches film, both to learn about LSU and to learn about himself. "You start to pick up on little things," he said. "Now we see things a whole lot clearer. I've been paying attention, watching film with my teammates when we can, just trying to understand the game a lot better, and the defense, read the coverages, know what the defensive linemen are going to do. It takes a whole lot of time and work and effort."

As for himself, he said he can improve by studying film of himself "and taking the right footwork. Paying attention to myself on film -- the things I do wrong, correct as best I can. Go out and do my job, because if I do my job it's going to benefit the team."

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