Fluker Works To Be Good, Not Just Big

Okay, for starters: No, D.J. Fluker does not get his shoes at the clown uniform store. But he does have a hard time finding shoes for those size 22s. "Every time I look at those feet I wonder how many cows were harmed so that he could slip into some Nikes," said Alabama Offensive Coordinator Jim McElwain.

Football gospel has it that a good big man will beat a good little man. Alabama redshirt freshman offensive tackle D.J. Fluker is a big man. And he's working to be a good man. Really working.

For instance, there's not near as much of him as there once was. Not that one would notice. The 6-6 Fluker checked in at almost 400 pounds a year ago. Now he's down to 325. That's a bit more than throwing deck chairs off the Queen Mary, but he is still a very big man.

In addition to his size, and particularly his shoe size, the thing that has most of his teammates talking is how hard Fluker works. And those feet do figure in, because footwork is so important to an offensive lineman.

Fluker is competing with freshman Arie Kouandjio (6-5, 335) to fill the right tackle slot held the past two years by the graduated Drew Davis. Alabama offensive linemen under Coach Joe Pendry do a lot of moving around in practice, so it's possible one of those two could move. Other candidates could include juniors Alfred McCullough (6-2, 309) and John Michael Boswell (6-5, 291).

One of the stories Barrett Jones had after being a Freshman All-America right guard in 2009 was that in spring 2010 he was working next to Fluker and having a hard time because he kept tripping over Fluker's feet.

Coaches and Fluker say that Jones has been a very positive influence on Fluker.

"It's come a lot better since the spring," Fluker said. "My coaches help me and my teammates help me. I get help from Barrett Jones. He's been there for me. He's been like a brother to me. He's been helping with my footwork every day. So it's been going good so far."

He said communications with Jones is a plus. He also said they watch film together and sometimes work on footwork after practice.

Fluker came to Alabama as an offensive lineman from Foley, but he had been a defensive lineman until his senior year. He played his junior season as a defensive tackle at Biloxi High School in Mississippi. At Foley he was a prep All-America.

Nevertheless, he was raw when he came to Alabama in 2009. That was part of the reason he was redshirted. But, in truth, he had to lose weight. And he did.

"I've been working hard," he said. "Working hard. I move a lot better. Feel a whole lot quicker. I work hard. I can breathe a whole lot better, too. And I can go a lot longer."

Fluker gives credit to the players and staff for his dramatic loss. He particularly noted the positive influence of Strength Coach Scott Cochran.

Of Fluker's 325 pounds, 23 per cent is body fat. But 25 per cent is muscle.

He said he'd like to play at about 330. "I'm just trying to lose as much weight as possible," he said. "The coaches told me that's all I can do right now."

Coaches and players have commented on Fluker's work ethic.

"That's good to hear," Fluker said. "My teammates work hard, and so I should too if I'm going to contribute. We work hard every day, compete every play. We don't take plays off. The coach stays on us about it, and so we buy into it."

Straight from the book of Coach Nick Saban.

"We learn from the best," Fluker said. "We listed to what Coach Saban says."

Fluker said his biggest strength is in the running game, and that he's working on pass protection.

He doesn't worry about being one of the players being talked about as Bama prepares for the 2010 season. "I don't pay attention to it," he said. "I go to practice, work hard, and whatever happens happens. I give my all, regardless. All I can do is go out there and work hard and compete with my teammates."

And so where does Fluker get his shoes? One way is to search the Internet. "They are kind of hard to find," he said, "but we find them somehow."

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