Can Tide Player Win The Award?

No Alabama football player has ever won the prize. Could this be the year? There has been some conversation this week about Crimson Tide tailback Mark Ingram winning the Heisman Trophy. But that's not the prize in question.



No Alabama player has ever won the John Mackey Award, given to the nation's best collegiate tight end. This week it was announced that the Crimson Tide's Colin Peek is among the players named to the 2009 John Mackey Award Watch List. The winner will be announced on December 10.

Peek is playing his only season for Alabama. He began his career at Georgia Tech, but transferred to Bama when the Yellow Jackets hired Paul Johnson as head coach. Johnson does not use a tight end in his triple option offense.

Peek has started all seven games for Alabama, which is 7-0 and ranked first in the nation in this week's Associated Press poll. Peek has caught a team-high 19 passes for 213 yards (11.2 per catch) and one touchdown this season. Peek's blocking skills have paved the way for sophomore running back Mark Ingram's SEC-leading 129.29 rushing yards per game this season, and eight touchdowns. In addition, the Crimson Tide offense churns out 259.83 rushing yards per game to rank third in the SEC and sixth nationally.

Peek didn't comment on his own nomination when he met with sportswriters this week, but he did comment on Crimson Tide sophomore tailback Mark Ingram and Ingram's chances for the Heisman Trophy, awarded to the nation's best college football.

"I think you saw that Saturday night," Peek said. "He's phenomenally gifted, and he works so hard; he's a guy in practice who is finishing every run. He's getting extra treatment and he's really a workhorse."

Ingram was the Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Week for his performance in a 20-6 win over South Carolina last week. Ingram had 24 rushes for 246 yards and a fourth quarter touchdown that sealed the victory.

"I had no idea he got 246 yards to be honest," Peek said. "He just gets it so silently because he consistently grinding. You see that so often from him that he breaks these tackles and breaks a run, that it's almost an ordinary thing for us. You forget just how special it is. To me I wouldn't have any other running back in the country on our team. It's also a testament to the other running backs on our team, Roy Upchurch, Trent Richardson, Terry Grant. They're able to give him some blows and really change defenses because when they come in there, the defenses sort of change gears because they all have different running styles and allow Mark to get a breather and come back in there. And when he does, you can see he would literally want to carry the ball on every play if it means that we would score a touchdown on it. I love Mark as a person."

"In this day and age where it's always about publicity, a lot of PR, (for) a guy who may not be as selfless as he is. I think that's the type of kid he is. He comes to work every day. He practices hard, he grinds it out every day, he finishes all the runs in practice and he's a great person to be around. He's a leader type of guy, when things get tough he wants the ball. At the same time, he's always willing to give his carries away to anyone as long as it's for the betterment of our team. When he gets out there he just wants to put his best foot forward. I would love to see him keep his name up there because he really deserves it for the work he puts in, and the type of kid he is and the type of player he is. He's really special to our organization."

This week Alabama hosts Tennessee in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Kickoff will be at 2:30 p.m. CDT with national television coverage by CBS. The Vols are 3-3 overall and 1-2 in Southeastern Conference games, losses to Florida and Auburn and a big win over Georgia in the last outing. Tennessee had an open date last weekend.

Peek is a native of Jacksonville, Florida, and Alabama-Tennessee was not much on his mind growing up. "To be honest I don't really know that much (about the rivalry)," he said. "I knew more about Florida-Tennessee. I know that it's a big thing around here. Some people say it's bigger than Auburn, some say it's second behind Auburn.

"I know that when I first got here last season when I was in limbo, during one of the workouts, they had all of the weight room coaches who had played here yell out their record. If you can remember your record against Tennessee it's something that travels with you for the rest of your life, so apparently, this must be a huge game.

"Some teams come to play against Alabama and they circle it as this is the game of the year, this is the game we're going to throw our eggs in the basket for. And I think with us you sort of flatline for every game. You can't prepare harder for one game than another. it has to be a consistent level if you're going to be one of the top teams in the nation. You can't say 'Hey we can take a break off this week because it's this team' or 'hey we need to work harder because it's this week', but I'm sure there's a lot more incentive for players to really work hard this week especially with it being such a monumental rivalry game."

Last week Peek's biggest moment was not a positive one for Alabama. The Crimson Tide was penalized an uncharacteristic 10 times for 113 yards against South Carolina. One of those penalties was a 15-yard markoff when Peek was called for offensive pass interference.

Peek still wonders what that was about. And so does his coach.

"That's the craziest thing ever," Peek said. "My coach, Bobby Williams, told me he didn't know why they called it, or how they called it. He was sort of trying to play me man on man and I sort of bodied him up because they try to grab you when you're trying to run past them. I sort of bodied him up and used his momentum to sort of push him off me, and the ref said 'Hey 84, you can't do that. That's illegal.' Shoot, that's what they tell us to do in practice. So I guess that maybe they just had a personal opinion on being wrong. I'm not going to stop playing that way, so hopefully the refs, I guess they can pick on me that way. As long as (Coach Nick) Saban doesn't get mad at me, it's all cool."

Last week Peek had two catches for 21 yards. The remarkable thing about Bama passing against South Carolina is that Tide quarterback Greg McElroy couldn't get the ball to the wide receivers. Of the 10 pass completions, only two went to a wide receiver, Marquis Maze getting both of them for a total of 19 yards.

Peek has no doubt that McElroy will get back on target.

"Greg is a tremendous quarterback," Peek said. The tight end said he thought McElroy was facing a number of things, including different looks he's getting from defenses.

"Any player is going to get frustrated when his play is not up to what he expects it to be," Peek said. "He's such a good competitor, he doesn't want to go out there and not play to his top level, what he expects to be playing at. I think that's going to make Greg work harder. He's that type of guy, that type of leader. Even though he may have been having difficulties that people were thinking, the crowd or the media, he never lost that leadership factor in himself that, 'Hey, I'm going to help lead this team. It may not be my night, but I'm going to make sure it's someone else's night.' I think that's a testament to himself as a person and I'm thankful for him to be my quarterback. We're all learning. This is my first year back, and after sitting out last year, I'm sure there's some things I'm still picking up on, and even though I guess it's halfway past the season, I think we're still getting better as a team. All of us on the offense are still getting better position-wise. And I think that's the same with Greg."

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