Brave fans rewarded with 10 records

Fans in attendance at Tuesday's Night of Champions had already witnessed plenty of fireworks. But when Waine Bacon jumped above the measuring bar to set a new standard for defensive backs on the vertical jump, the total number of records set rose to ten. <br><br>"I was not ready for all those records," Tide Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Ben Pollard admitted. "The lights go on and the players get after it."

Despite tornado warnings for the Tuscaloosa area, more than a thousand fans were on hand at Coleman Coliseum to cheer the Alabama athletes on. "The players want people to know what they're doing," Pollard said. "This environment really helps. If we could do all of our testing this way, I couldn't keep up with the numbers."

Bacon's jump was intended to be just an exhibition, demonstrating to the crowd how the vertical jump is measured. But after an impressive first effort, the atmosphere helped Bacon set a new mark of 42 inches. "I was ready to stop," Bacon related. "But the crowd got into it and you have to keep going. That was THE highest I've ever jumped. The adrenaline was really pumping. It had to be. Without it, I wouldn't have done it.

Anthony Bryant set a position and program record, squatting 755 pounds at the Night of Champions.

"I actually liked all the people. Of course I've always been one that liked the attention. It only makes me do better."

Besides Bacon, other players setting records Tuesday night were sophomore tailback Josh Smith (465 pounds) and linebacker Cornelius Wortham (480 pounds) in the bench press; defensive tackle Anthony Bryant (755 pounds) and tight end Theo Sanders (550 pounds) in the squat; offensive guard Justin Smiley (415 pounds) and receiver Lance Taylor (365 pounds) in the hang clean and receiver Dre Fulgham (390 pounds), offensive guard Marico Portis (450 pounds) and fullback Nick Signaigo (415 pounds) in the incline press.

Others participating in the event were linebacker Mark Anderson, receiver Brandon Brooks, center J.B. Closner, defensive lineman Jarret Johnson, tight end Clint Johnston, linebacker Juke King, defensive back Anthony Madison, defensive back Charlie Peprah, receiver Lance Taylor and tailback Shaud Williams.

"The crowd was unreal, totally unreal," Signaigo said. "They got me jacked, man! I never thought I could do 415 (pounds), but being in front of this crowd was unreal. When I first got here and saw everybody coming in, I started getting nervous a little bit. But you get in that zone. You don't see anybody, and you're ready to throw some weight up. It was unreal."

It was Coach Pollard and his athletes' night to show off a bit, so Head Coach Dennis Franchione stayed mostly off to the side as a spectator. But he was definitely proud of what he saw. "I think the crowd enjoyed it, and the players are motivated by it," Franchione said afterwards. "I've done this now for almost 15 years. It's a great way to end the off season, though there really never is an off season anymore. It's a great way to culminate the spring. Take a little break before finals. It achieves all the things I wanted to achieve."

With his teammates surrounding him, Lance Taylor hang cleans at the Night of Champions. His lift of 365 pounds was a record for Tide receivers.

The obvious gains in strength were gratifying to Franchione, but he was even prouder of the players and how they cheered each other on. "The spirit it develops on your team is tremendous," he said. "The characteristics of spirit, camaraderie, loyalty, teamwork, excitement for each other's success. It's a big night in that regard. Those are sometimes parts of this that are overlooked.

"We all recognize Anthony Bryant's 750-pound squat, but to see his teammates excited for Anthony is more important."

It was hard to miss big ‘Bear' Bryant as the junior defensive lineman stepped up and squatted 755 pounds, breaking a record that had stood for more than a decade. But Theo Sanders shrugging off several injuries to better his own mark by 25 pounds was just as impressive. "I'm a tough guy, you know--I had to do what I had to do," Sanders said laughing. "The crowd really motivates you to get the job done. I was under a lot of stress up under that weight. The crowd did help."

Having set the hang clean mark for tight ends earlier in the month, Sanders now owns three of the four records for his position. "Joe Yount still holds the flat bench press record (for tight ends) at 435 pounds," Sanders said. "I'll get that one in the summer."

"We really got into a competition tonight," Pollard said. "Even more than goes on in the weight room. With testing and classes you don't end up with everybody there that you want to be."

One interesting showdown occurred on the incline bench press, where good friends and fellow seniors Marico Portis and Alonzo Ephraim went back and forth with the O-Line record. "Coach Fran added Alonzo at the last minute, because in the weight room he went five pounds over my old record," Ephraim related. "They put him in so we would compete against each other and get a higher lift. But my name is still up on the wall."

"Iron Man" Trophy winners (left to right) Roberto McBride, Atlas Herrion, Antwan Odom and Theo Sanders.

Ephraim came close, but Portis' 450-pound lift set the record. "I told Alonzo before we came over here, I said ‘Whatever it is, I'm going to get it.'"

Junior Cornelius Wortham turned in his own record-setting performance, hoisting 480 pounds on the flat bench press to better Saleem Rasheed's old mark for linebackers. "Going into spring we knew that I had a chance at the record," Wortham related. "Coming into tonight I knew I felt good about it. So I said I was going to go for the gold tonight. I knew I had two years left to try and break it, but I wanted to go ahead and get it out of the way tonight.

"The crowd gives you that extra push. They're yelling and the adrenaline starts. You try to funnel all that in and push the weight up."

In addition to the record-setting lifts, defensive back Roberto McBride, tight end Theo Sanders, defensive end Antwan Odom and defensive lineman Atlas Herrion were named "Iron Men" for the 2002 season. The Iron Man Award is based on proportionate amount of weight lifted per pound of body weight.

"I think we've put ourselves in a position to really have a great summer," Pollard said. "You look a the numbers and think that if we make a little more progress by the end of the summer, then we'll be fine. It's harder to peak 15 days after spring ball, so I expect to have a good summer.

"We've got a lot of seniors. We've got a lot of kids that want to win, that have something to prove."

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