Tales From The Football Recruiting Trail

Just how close did the Tigers come to landing a giant running back with world class speed?

The story can now be told of how a prince almost became an Auburn football player.

The story starts, really, about 30 years ago. Muhammad Michka, the son of the king of the little country of Krabadul, came to the United States to be educated at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. He had dabbled in soccer, but despite his imposing size he'd never been an athlete. While in the United States, he fell in love with the strange game called football.

Muhammad Michka is now the king of Krabadul, a largely ceremonial position in the tiny and peaceful country of just more than 30,000 souls. He so values the education he got in this country that he wanted his son, Jamar, to experience even more of it than he did. He sent him last summer to stay with Jorge Richt, with whom he was close friends at Virginia. As fate would have it, Richt had married an Auburn girl and had been an Auburn season ticket holder for almost 20 years. The Richts had a son the same age as Jamar who was a pretty decent football player in Baltimore, Md.

It turns out that Jorge Richt Jr. had signed up to go to football camp at Auburn. The Richts called, told Auburn officials the situation and asked if young Jamar could come, too. Everything was set. Here is where things got really interesting. Jamar knew a little about American football from the stories his father had told. But he was a soccer player, a star in his country. Like his father, he was quite large, 6-7 and 275 pounds.

At the Auburn camp last summer, Jamar lined up like the rest of the campers to be timed in the 40-yard dash. After he ran, the graduate assistants doing the timing looked at each other in astonishment and asked him to run again. He did. His first time was 4.33. His second was 4.29. Suddenly, there was a lot of interest in young Prince Jamar. Turned out he could do more than run. He had a vertical leap of almost 40 inches. He could catch the strangely shaped ball. He could bench press 360 pounds, though he'd never lifted a weight in his life.

Jamar was also remarkably intelligent. In the few days he was at Auburn, he rapidly learned the game of football. Polite and kind, he was extremely popular among the other campers and among the coaches.

When camp was over, he returned to Maryland. He returned to Krabadul last August to finish his secondary school education with plans to return to follow in his father's footsteps at the University of Virginia.

Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville had other ideas. In an effort shrouded in secrecy because of Jamar's royal family, he was offered a football scholarship at Auburn. Academics would not be a problem. Jamar was the top student in the exclusive private school he attended. King Muhammad, the queen and Prince Jamar visited Auburn during Christmas break last year to avoid publicity. They toured the campus. The king had the most fun of all, sitting with Tuberville and watching game tapes. He marveled at how much bigger and faster the players were than when he was a college student in Virginia. He invited Tuberville to come to his country and give a clinic so people there could learn about the game. He even discussed making football a school sport in his country.

Tuberville told Jamar he believed, after a redshirt year to learn the intricacies of the game, he could be an All-American tailback. A 275-pounder with world class speed and athleticism, Tuberville said, would be a national sensation. Jamar and King Muhammad told Tuberville they would work out the details and Jamar would be an Auburn Tiger.

But fate intervened. Playing in a pickup soccer game, Jamar was hit from behind and tore ligaments in his right knee. Tuberville, upon hearing about it, quickly called the king and invited him to bring Jamar to Birmingham to have the knee repaired at HealthSouth. But the king declined, saying the doctors in Krabadul would be able to handle it. He said Jamar would wait a year, then come to Auburn as planned.

Unfortunately, the knee didn't heal properly. Doctors told Jamar he would risk not being able to use the leg at all if he played any contact sport. As a result, he will go on to the University of Virginia to study business like his father. So it was that Auburn lost the chance to have a 275-pound tailback with the speed of Bo Jackson.

And if you believe any of this, I have some beachfront property in Opelika I'd like to sell you. Happy April Fool's Day!

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