Night of Champions to showcase strength gains

Spring drills and the annual A-Day scrimmage are finished. And for most schools, that would mean the end of off-season football. But Tide fans will have one last chance to cheer for their favorite athletes, as the second annual Night of Champions weight lifting exhibition is slated for next Tuesday.

The evening provides an opportunity for Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Ben Pollard to show off some of the gains accomplished by his athletes. "It's a chance to showcase the kids that have worked hard that have made great strides in strength levels throughout the year," he explained. "And maybe you can use some of the kids that aren't necessarily the most prominent as far as players go. It can sometimes be a way to reward kids that aren't in the starting lineup.

Kenny King squats during last year's Night of Champions.

"Although no doubt the stars are the kind of players that people want to see."

The event will take place Tuesday, April 30th at 7 pm in Coleman Coliseum. Stations for the bench press, the incline bench press, the squat and the hang clean will be set up on the basketball floor. Like last year admission will be free. The Coleman Jumbotrons will be utilized for replays and to watch the events, but fan seating will provide ring-side seats to the action.

"It's an opportunity to see another side of the players," Pollard, who will also function as the master of ceremonies, said. "Fans see plenty of football during the year. So I think it's an interesting way to showcase what the athletes do away from the football field."

Four or five athletes will participate in each of the four lifts. Plus, one player will perform an exhibition on the vertical jump. Final decisions on the NOC roster will probably not be made until the first of next week. But senior safety Waine Bacon's 41-inch vertical will likely be on display for the crowd.

Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione and Pollard had done a Night of Champions at Texas Christian, but 2001 marked the first year for the event at Alabama. Last year the participating players gathered around their respective stations with the rest of their teammates on the floor behind, cheering them on.

Demonstrating his remarkable 43-inch vertical jump, Aries Monroe performs during last year's Night of Champions.

Since the event was brand new for everyone involved, the athletes were frankly nervous about how they'd do. But once the evening began, each athlete's competitive nature took over and butterflies were quickly forgotten. "I think the kids probably enjoyed it more than they thought they were going to," Pollard said.

As Pollard's friends will attest, the veteran strength coach is normally a calm and confident man, but his ‘game day' frankly brings its share of nerves. Everything about the Night of Champions is live action. Nothing is preordained. All the athletes will be attempting lifts beyond their recorded max, which means that Pollard has no way of knowing for sure whether or not they will accomplish their lifts.

"You always want to put the kid in a situation where he can have success," Pollard said. "You don't want to put him in a situation where he's going to embarrass himself. You don't ever want to do that."

Pollard's other main problem is injuries. Coming off a tough spring practice schedule, several of his best lifters are recovering from one injury or another. Which makes his job of filling out the participation list that much more difficult.

But he has no doubt that fans will be treated to a fun and exciting evening. "I enjoyed last year," Pollard said. "I think it worked out well. It ended things on a positive note for the spring. Overall it was positive."

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