D.J. Fluker put his arms by his side and tried to suck in his stomach to make himself smaller to squeeze into the tight media huddle.
But there's nothing small about the 6-foot-6, 335-pound right tackle.
"How y'all doing?" Fluker asked, smiling. He beat the reporters to the questions.
That's the kind of guy he is. A massive offensive lineman—he's Alabama's largest athlete on the roster—that is kind and smiles a lot. In fact, if you tried to swipe the grin off his face he'd probably pancake you.
Throughout every question, Fluker flashed that smile and laughed. He was happy. Maybe that's a product of what's been taking place at fall camp.
Despite the heat and humidity the players have to endure everyday for two-plus hours, sometimes twice a day, Fluker is constantly energized. So much so that running back Eddie Lacy called him a "big ball of energy."
"We come out to practice at camp and there are days when you're just not feeling it," Lacy said. "But once you get around Fluker and he gets that energy going, it's like a chain reaction and next thing you know, everybody's ready to go out and practice. All because of D.J. Fluker."
When asked about Lacy's comments, Fluker gave reporters a glimpse into a pre-practice or pre-game pep talk.
"When I came into the locker room during camp, I said, ‘Look, let me tell y'all something: This is our team this year. We're going to define ourselves this year.' I said, ‘Y'all, we're not having it this year. This is our team. Come out here, work hard, get it done, get out, come back, put more work in.' I told them that and they believed it and they came together with it. We have a lot of energy, and everybody feeds off of every person. Energy rubs off on everybody. It's kind of like a virus a little bit. It spreads everywhere."
So when Fluker is actually tired, does he fake it?
"The thing about being tired, [offensive line coach Jeff] Stoutland is always telling us about Joe Tate," Fluker said. "Joe Tate [an offensive lineman Stoutland coached while at Michigan State] gave everything he had on every play. When you're tired, he said you give everything you got. You gotta be on a stretcher to give everything you got. I'm always thinking that inside my head, so I'm going to give everything I got on every single play."
This energy, this model attitude, this leadership is something new, and frankly something that Alabama head coach Nick Saban didn't expect from Fluker when he first arrived on campus several years ago.
"He's much more outgoing in terms of his willingness to affect other people," Saban said. "He has really affected our offense in a positive way not only with his performance, but his enthusiasm, attention to detail and intensity. The way he goes about things and demands that people do it the same way. That's something that when he came here, I never thought would happen, but it certainly has and it's a real positive for us."
Fluker explained that he's always had those qualities Saban described in him, but this year he's really blossomed because he knows it's time for him to step up.
"I mean, I've always had it, I just didn't know when my time would come, like, to step up and say, ‘Hey guys, let's get together,'" Fluker said. "Know when to lead. Because we already had leaders like Rolando McClain, Barrett Jones, [William] Vlachos. We already had great leaders. I really didn't know when my time would come. But now that I see the opportunity to get it, why not take advantage of it?
"Coach always says take advantage of the opportunities that are given to you. And also he always tells us anybody can lead a team. I take that to heed. He's right. Anybody can take that role."
Saban called Fluker one of the most physical players he's ever had at Alabama or anywhere else, and compared him to Flozell Adams, whom he coached at Michigan State. When asked about that likeness, Fluker laughed.
"I wouldn't say I'm the most physical, but I get down with it," he said "I just go out there and work hard. That's the main thing. If one guy sees you working hard, the rest of them are going to follow you. If you're out there busting your tail every single play, the rest of them are going to fall in line right along with you. I got a high motor. I can't help that."
Fluker doesn't expect praise for his energy or physicality. It's all in a day's work. He can't even search his memory for his greatest play.
"I just do my job, you know," he said. "I don't have no highlight, I just do my job."
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