TUSCALOOSA — ’Tis the season for postseason college football honors, and Alabama has wracked up plenty, including All-America, All-Southeastern Conference and individual awards.
Maybe nobody has taken in a greater haul than senior center Barrett Jones, a three-time All-American, a four-time academic All-American, and winner of the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center and the Campbell Trophy as college football’s top academic star.
But his teammates gave him something last week he values even more: permanent team captain. Defensive end Damion Square and offensive guard Chance Warmack joined him when the Tide players voted for their choices last week.
When Alabama returns from Christmas break for practice today, Jones, Square and Warmack will lead the team exercises at the start of the workout.
“That’s probably the biggest award I’ve ever gotten, being a team captain because it’s elected by your teammates,” Jones said. “It means a lot to be named kind of a leader of the team by your teammates. It’s something that I’m very, very proud of.”
Team captain at Alabama comes with special recognition. Since 1947, the school has memorialized its permanent team captains by having them place prints of their hand and football shoe prints in cement at Denny Chimes, which is located in the heart of the campus.
“I grew up going to look at the hands in the cement at Denny Chimes, and it’ll be cool to be a part of that,” said Jones, who briefly considered heading to the NFL after last season. “So that’s really a big reason I came back is I wanted to be a captain. So I’m very, very pleased that I could achieve that goal.”
It’s a unique honor at Alabama, partly because even some of the greatest, most elite players in Crimson Tide history didn’t achieve it.
Mark Ingram, the school’s only Heisman Trophy winner? Not a team captain. Neither was Julio Jones, now one of the NFL’s top receivers with the Atlanta Falcons.
John Hannah, generally regarded as the NFL’s greatest offensive lineman of the 1970s and ’80s? He didn’t make team captain at Alabama, although his brother, Charles Hannah, did for the Crimson Tide in 1976.
Bart Starr, most valuable player of the first two Super Bowls with the Green Bay Packers? Not a team captain during his time with the Tide in the 1950s.
Neither was Fred Sington, who in 1930 was the school’s first consensus All-American. And for that matter, the legendary Bear Bryant, perhaps college football’s greatest coach, didn’t make team captain as a Tide varsity player in the 1930s.
He played end, while All-American Don Hutson played the other end. Hutson later earned NFL most valuable player honors twice with Green Bay. But not an Alabama team captain, either.
“Being voted team captain shows that my teammates think highly of me. And that’s what you want,” said Square, who didn’t make All-American or even All-SEC. “You come out to practice every day and you try to show good character and be loyal and honest to your teammates throughout these five years, and to have an accomplishment like this ... with it or without it, it’s what you come to do. I appreciate the honor that will be around here until the end of time.”
Square added that he’s grateful he’ll be remembered, no matter his statistics or lack of any individual awards.
It’s especially meaningful to him because he is captain of a team that will play in the BCS National Championship Game Jan. 7.
“Everything you do in life, you want to be remembered,” he said. “And that’s one thing I’ll be remembered for ... team captain of the team that’s going to play in Miami.”
Warmack, a consensus All-American, said he values the honor because his teammates voted for it.
“That’s all I care about,” he said. “What matters most to me is what my teammates think, because they’re with me 24/7/365. They see me all the time. For them to vote me as a permanent captain really means a lot to me.”