The selections of this year’s Alabama team included non-surprises quarterback Blake Sims, wide receiver Amari Cooper, and safety Landon Collins. Outside of the team, though, Jalston “Nudie” Fowler, may have been something of a surprise.
Jalston Fowler, a 6-1, 248-pound senior from Vigor High School in Prichard, is listed as a running back, but more often than not – much more often than not – he is blocking for someone else to run or to pass. He is a fullback or an HJ-back and sometimes a slotback in the Crimson Tide offense and also sees duty on special teams.
Fowler remembers very well the banquet announcement. “I was just sitting there, nervous,” he said. “My name was the last one to get called and it was like, ‘Awww, man!’ Because I was hoping to win that award. It’s something very dear to me to be voted by your teammates as the team captain.
“I was so happy at that moment to win that award.
“It meant a lot to me – for your teammates to think of you as a captain, some guy they look up to and listen to all the time. So it was really big.”
Fowler didn’t get the award based on his statistics. This year he has only 12 carries in Alabama’s 13 games. He’s gained 69 yards, which is 5.8 per carry, but only 5.3 yards per game. Ditto with pass receptions. He has 9 for 115 yards (2 TDs) for 12.8 yards per catch, but only 8.8 receiving yards per game.
Fowler and his Alabama teammates are in practice in Tuscaloosa through Monday before a short Christmas break. The team will resume practice in New Orleans after the holiday and will play Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1 in the semifinal round of the inaugural College Football Playoff. Both Bama and Ohio State are 12-1` and champions of their conferences (Southeastern and Big Ten, respectively).
Being elected captain was not Fowler’s only mention at the football banquet. He, Sims, tailback T.J. Yeldon, and center Ryan Kelly were also presented with the President’s Award, which goes to a player “who has shown perseverance in making outstanding contributions to the team’s success.”
Fowler’s perseverance was tried in 2012 when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second game of the season. Fowler had opened that season impressively with 8 carries for 67 yards in a 41-14 win over Michigan.
When Fowler was asked if he had thought back to any particular time in his Bama football career when he was elected captain, he had something of a surprise himself. “Yeah,” he said. “I thought back to the time I wanted to quit after the knee injury. But I came back and fought through.”
He said he got strong support from family and friends to stick it out. “Now that I look back on it, I’m happy that I didn’t [quit],” he said. “I just had to fight through; had to change my mindset.”
Fowler also said he is pleased with the role he has as something of a utility player. “I’m used to doing stuff like that,” he said. “I’ve been doing it ever since I was younger, Pop Warner ball or high school. I love it. It shows how versatile you are.”
His role was dictated by new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. Fowler had been a tailback when he arrived under Jim McElwain, added time at fullback under Doug Nussmeier. “But when Coach Kiffin came,” Fowler said, “he put me everywhere. It was like, ‘What’s going on?’ He didn't say he was going to line me up at receiver and all that type of stuff. It was just something that just happened. And I was just like, ‘Aw man, this is a good look for me.’”
Fowler caught on (“It’s not that hard once you get the study in”) and now feels it will benefit him in the future with a chance to play professional football. “A lot of teams look for a guy like me out there,” he said, “because you can just keep me on the field.”
Speaking of “on the field,” Fowler had a new teammate when bowl practice started, incoming freshman tailback Bo Scarbrough, who is eligible to practice, though not to play in the bowl game.
“Bo looked pretty good,” Fowler said. “Those fresh legs were moving today. Everybody was just out there today 'there goes those fresh legs.' He was moving so fast.
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