Mr. Do-It-All

High school kid plays well enough for someone to give a college coach a ‘heads-up' that he might want to recruit the kid at the next level. College coach watches kid, likes him but determines he's not big enough to play at said college. Kid later signs with another team, and has a chance to play against the school that rejected him.

This week, Javier Arenas is the kid and Mississippi State is the college that will be thrown into the can't-miss storyline in the lead-up to Alabama's 11:30 a.m. Bryant-Denny Stadium kickoff against the Bulldogs on Saturday.

Arenas, Bama's 5-9, 190-pound true freshman punt returner brought up the story with a small gathering of reporters on Sunday.

"A friend of mine in Tampa got in contact with (Mississippi State special teams and outside linebackers) Coach Amos Jones, and Coach Jones came down there to watch me practice and watch a couple of games," Arenas said. "I did fairly well in those games or whatnot, and after one of those games I was like ‘So, what's up coach, can we get something going or what?' and he just told me, he was like ‘In this day and age you're just to small to play in the SEC.'"

He turned you down?

"Yeah."

Them's fighting words.

"Coach Amos Jones tried to recruit me over there at Mississippi State," Arenas said, "and he turned me down. I want to go in and see this game as a starting point for me and keep going along."

Of course it was just Jones' harsh but honest judgment at the time. No need to string a kid along who you don't think can play, right?

Arenas has been okay so far, and he has a very promising future ahead of him at Bama. He provided the gamebreaker for Alabama last week in its homecoming 38-3 win over Florida International – a school that would have gladly taken his abilities – with a 65-yard punt return.

"When I put my chin down and looked downfield I put all my trust in the blockers," Arenas said. "They set up a wall. It wasn't anything special for me. They set it up perfect."

Nothing special for Arenas, but extremely special for Alabama since the Tide hasn't had a sure-handed punt returner since Tyrone Prothro went down, and memories of muffed punt return after muffed punt return are still fresh.

"I just know I'm going to catch the ball," Arenas said. "Catching the ball is the most difficult thing. A lot of people can't even catch punts. It's an ugly ball to catch."

Bama fans are well aware.

"If you focus and relax it's not that difficult at all, but it's the main thing and it's the priority," he said.

One thing we have yet to see from Arenas is a fair catch. He has tried to return every ball, and admits he might have made a wrong decision or two. But that's the confidence he has in his own ability.

"I try to judge whose going to get there first, the guy or the ball," he said, "and see if I can have at least a yard to make a move because the faster he's coming down there the easier it will be to put a move on him and make him miss."

The soft-spoken Robinson high product continues the tour of schools who showed at least some interest in him this week. Arenas was multi-skilled at Robinson, with FIU wanting him as a receiver and Alabama thinking more along the lines of cornerback.

"I started at running back one game, started at receiver another game, started at cornerback, kick returner, punt returner, gunner (on the punt team); wherever my team needed help at," he said.

So you can sorta do whatever?

"Yeah."

And he said Sunday his sore left shoulder won't slow him down. He was injured on the final punt return against FIU, and wore a sling with ice on the shoulder after the game. On Sunday he appeared normal, and said the shoulder was fine, just sore.


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