Alabama junior Simeon Castille was a first team All-Southeastern Conference cornerback this year, but when sportswriters showed up to interview Crimson Tide players and coaches following Tuesday's practice, Castille didn't look like he was pleased with anything. He had first been spotted running laps around the practice fields after most of the starters had gone to the dressing room while redshirts and scout team players continued practice.
It was probably a good thing that Castille went to the locker room for a few minutes before facing the press. When he returned, his mood turned cheery.
For one thing, Castille is going to the bowl game this year. Last year he didn't because he was academically ineligible.
"I'm very happy," he said. He said he and his family had heard the rumors that he would once again be ineligible for the bowl game.
"There was no way that was going to happen," he said. "I worked too hard. I got serious about academics. It wasn't close."
He said when it was revealed at last year's Cotton Bowl game that he could not participate that it affected more than just him. "Anytime an athlete at The University of Alabama is ineligible it affects a lot of people," he said. "You are asked about it all the time. It affects your family and it affects your teammates."
One member of Simeon's family is his brother, Tim Castille, a senior fullback.
But the one Simeon worried about the most was his father, Jeremiah Castille, a former Alabama All-America. "I thought my dad was going to kill me," Simeon said. "But he just talked to me. He told me to handle myself better, to make better decisions, and warned me that if I didn't, I wasn't going to be happy.
"So I did what I was capable of doing. It starts with using your time wisely.
"I'm very excited. I'm getting to go to the bowl game, get the gifts, get the (travel) money, and, of course, the football game."
The football game is the Independence Bowl in Shreveport December 28 against Oklahoma State.
Interim Coach Joe Kines said, "God blessed Simeon with a ton of talent. Sometimes things can get away from you when you have that much talent. The thing that Simeon has done this year is learn to practice and learn to finish plays. He's high strung and he hit a hard time last year. He handled it well. He's worked hard."
Simeon, 6-1, 189, led Alabama's defense in 2006 with five interceptions and six pass break-ups and had three fumble recoveries. He was fourth on the team in tackles with 65. He had two interceptions in games against both Vanderbilt and Tennessee.
Castille said that Oklahoma State is a tough team to prepare for. "Start with the passing game and they have two big receivers, one about 6-4, 220 (Adarius Bowman) and one about 6-1, 210 (D'Juan Woods)," Castille said. "Our work is cut out for us with them. Then they've got the option, and that's always tricky. Our job is to take care of our assignments. We've been working hard and I think we will."
He also said, "Coach Kines gives us an advantage. Give him three weeks to look at the opponent and he'll have them broken down and have all the right calls to stop them."
Kines dismissed the praise. "It's simple," he said. "If the guys make the plays, all schemes work. It's about the players. If you don't believe it, just try it without them one day."
Kines will have one in this year's bowl game that Bama didn't have last season.