September 24, 2022

Nick Saban
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The standards are high for the Alabama Crimson Tide football program. For most teams, reaching the national championship would be considered a huge accomplishment — but that’s certainly not the case in Tuscaloosa.

Last season, Alabama made it all the way to the national title game before falling to SEC rival Georgia. Despite the loss, Alabama did not leave empty-handed. The Crimson Tide received a trophy for their efforts in the College Football Playoff, but offensive lineman Emil Ekiyor Jr. he says it only serves as a reminder of what the team failed to achieve.

At a recent press conferenceEkiyor said the trophy is on display in the team cafeteria. As far as he’s concerned, this piece of hardware is nothing more than a “participation trophy.”

“It’s kind of hard to turn the page, you know? Ekiyor said. “Obviously, it was a tough loss. We worked all year to achieve this goal. In a way, we haven’t turned the page yet because it’s always in the back of our minds. I mean, in our cafeteria we got the participation trophy from the cafeteria just sitting there. It’s a participation trophy. You made it, but you didn’t do anything. You didn’t win. I wouldn’t say we’ve completely turned the page. There’s always something outside that motivates us, but that’s all I have to say.”

The team was kinder with this trophy compared to the one they received when they lost in the national championship game a few years ago. A year after Alabama’s national title loss to Clemson at the end of the 2016 season, then-strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran demolished him in front of the players.

The annual expectation at Alabama is a championship, and in a season where its program won the SEC and went to the title game, Saban said 2021 was a ‘rebuilding year’ for the program. If it was a rebuilding year, that’s bad news for the rest of college football.

Heading into 2022, Alabama is once again the favorite for the national championship, but that doesn’t mean the roster is without questions. Barrett Sallee of CBS Sports recently broke down a few areas the Crimson Tide still need to shore up to get the job done this fall.

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