Alabama sophomore wide receiver D.J. Hall has written his fallen teammate's name somewhere on his body each of the past two games. After his amazing performance Saturday in Alabama's 6-3 victory over Tennessee, it seems appropriate.
"I think about Tyrone," Hall said, "before every snap."
Hall thought about Tyrone Prothro late in the fourth quarter, before the Crimson Tide's biggest play of a 7-0 season. Third and eight, from its own 22, score tied 3-3.
In the huddle, senior quarterback Brodie Croyle sought Hall out immediately.
"Run," Croyle told him. "I'm throwing it."
So run Hall did. Croyle called the play – red left gun, bronco left, 989 left – heaved the ball down the left sideline, and Hall leaped. When he came down, he had a 43-yard gain, all the way to the Vols' 35.
"We came to the huddle, and Brodie came right at me," Hall said. "He was like, ‘Hey, I'm going right to you,' and that's what I did. They were in a press coverage and I gave them a little move, ran by them. Brodie put it in the right spot and I was there to make the catch."
It was the kind of catch big-play receivers make. The kind of play Prothro made look routine before breaking his left leg three weeks ago against Florida.
And while Hall's catch wasn't quite Prothro-esque, the spirit was there.
"Before the play, I was thinking, what would Pro do?" Hall said. "You can see what Prothro would have done. He would have made the catch, might have been more spectacular, a one-handed catch with a backflip or something. I tried to make it as impressive as I could."
It was more than good enough for Tide fans, though, and the highlight of the biggest day of Hall's career. He had 10 catches for 139 yards, an impressive stat for a player who had 13 catches in six previous games this season."
"He came up huge," Croyle said. "He had a huge day, and made a lot of big catches for us. He did a lot of things you can't see – like sitting down in the (flat), linebackers were blitzing, he was reading the blitz and running the slant route behind them, a lot of things to the naked eye you wouldn't realize.
"It shows how far he's come. He's the guy – when it's crunch time, we're getting him the ball."
Hall isn't Tyrone Prothro. But he's doing a darn good job of filling the little guy's cleats.
"It feels good," Hall said of his new status. "We've got a lot of targets, but it feels good when you know on third down the quarterback is looking for you to be open. It makes you work harder."