Often times we talk of fate, of stories that feel like they were meant to happen in the very way they did. Sometimes it happens in a single instance - meeting the eyes and smile of the girl at the vending machine. Other times it happens over an extended period - a certain sense of introspective fulfillment from getting the job you have been working towards for years. There is nothing more personally satisfying than when a plan comes together, when things turn out exactly as they should, when you just know.
It was February of 2010, and the Alabama Crimson Tide had just won its first National Championship since the 1992 game against Miami. The fan base was euphoric, and 3rd-year coach Nick Saban appeared poised to keep the team in the national spotlight for years to come. A high school All-American quarterback, the highest ranked quarterback to come to Alabama in the recent era, had signed his letter of intent and was expected by fans to be groomed to be the replacement for starting quarterback Greg McElroy. The young savior's name was Sims. Phillip Sims.
It was June of 2014, and the Alabama Crimson Tide was coming off of its first exclusion from the National Championship in three seasons. Fans were worried, especially with the graduation of three-year starter A.J. McCarron, but an immensely talented young quarterback had just transferred into the program from Florida State. The savior's name was Jacob Coker.
In the 2010 recruiting class, names such as Dee Milliner, C.J. Mosley, Adrian Hubbard, and Phillip Sims were expected to be the future of the program. A four-star athlete from Gainesville, Georgia was mostly lost in the bigger names of the class. He was a quarterback in high school, but was more of a runner than a thrower. He was athletic and explosive, but Phillip Sims was the true quarterback of the class. The young athlete enrolled at Alabama with most expecting him to become a defensive back.
In the 2014 offseason, names such as Amari Cooper, Landon Collins, Jonathan Allen, and Jacob Coker were expected to step up and bring the team back to the top of college football. A fifth-year senior at quarterback was mostly most lost in the shuffle. While an exciting runner, he was still an unrefined passer even in his fifth year, and most fans believed he was not the type of player to run Alabama's pro-style offense.
We love the stories of a hero being made, rather than those of a hero being born. Maybe it is because we relate those stories to our own lives. How easy is it to face an obstacle, raise a mental white flag and say to ourselves I just wasn't born with the ability to overcome this? In our hearts though, we want to believe we can do anything. With enough dedication, work, and attention to detail, it can be accomplished. In high school, we all believed that we could be like that nerdy teen in the movies who won the affection of the cheerleader over the naturally charismatic guy. The story of the successful underdog is one of the most appealing rhetorics in our culture.
After a redshirt season, the young athlete from Georgia began his career in yet another position: running back. He saw some playing time in games that were already decided well in Alabama's favor as A.J. McCarron took over the quarterback job from Greg McElroy. Quarterback Phillip Sims decided that he would be unable to overcome the adversity of not getting the starting job at Alabama, threw in the white flag, and left the team.
The next year, the young athlete switched positions yet again. After spending time at defensive back and running back, he was finally back on track to where he had envisioned himself being in in high school: a quarterback for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Due to his time spent at other positions, he was light years behind the other quarterbacks in his development, and had a tough journey looming in front of him to master the nuances of the position. However, his experience at other positions across the football field made him unique. He built skills that other quarterbacks never build. He became friends with players at positions that most quarterbacks never spend time with. His skill set was unique, and his dedication was legendary.
In 1884, a man was born into a low farming family in Missouri. His family could not afford to send him to college, and he was turned down by the military for his poor eyesight. So, he memorized the entire eye examination chart and passed the test to serve the National Guard in World War One. He ended up becoming a Colonel of the Guard. After the war, he opened a haberdashery, which soon went bankrupt due to a recession. He changed his career yet again and was elected as a county judge. He ascended the ranks to U.S. Senator, and was eventually chosen to be Vice President of the United States under the famous Franklin D. Roosevelt.
After Roosevelt's death, the vice president ran for re-election in 1948, and was considered a huge underdog to the charismatic Thomas Dewey. In fact, the night of the election, the newspapers went ahead and published a victory newspaper article before the voting was complete. However, the impassioned and fiery campaign of the lowly farmer boy from Missouri won over the hearts of the nation, and Harry S. Truman was elected as the most improbable President of America.
After three years as a back-up quarterback, the young athlete was the heir to A.J. McCarron and wanted to finally take hold of the starting quarterback position at Alabama. However, a charismatic, prototypical quarterback named Jacob Coker transferred in from Florida State, and was basically handed the job by fans and media alike. And who could forget this spectacular moment from the A-day game?
When the opening game of 2014 rolled around, it was not Coker who walked onto the turf at the Georgia Dome as the Crimson Tide's quarterback, but Blake Sims, the athlete who never had a true position.
Blake Sims went on to become the unquestioned leader of the 2014 Alabama team, and won over the hearts of all the fans who had doubted his ability to be a quarterback with his fiery, unorthodox playing style and penchant for big plays. After a slow start to the season, Sims broke a school record against Florida with 484 yards and four touchdowns in a single game.
After a heartbreaking loss to Ole Miss, and an ugly win in the pouring rain against Arkansas, Sims led Alabama to the their most perfect game of the season against Texas A&M.
Following a win against Tennessee, Blake Sims won over the hearts of even the most pessimistic Alabama fans in an unbelievable comeback/overtime win against a raucous LSU team. Sims threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns in that game, while improbably converting a couple of third downs with scrambles that could only have been done by a former running back.
Sims put together a dominating win against the top team in the nation, Mississippi State, and then turned to prepare to take on Auburn in the annual Iron Bowl rivalry. After a disastrous first three quarters, including Sims throwing three interceptions, he led his team to another fairy tale come back victory, throwing for 312 yards and four touchdowns, and converting more crucial third downs on what should have been impossible scrambles.
Sims led the Tide to a resounding win over Missouri in the SEC championship game, and Alabama was given a birth in the inaugural playoff system against Ohio State. Although the Buckeyes stymied Sims and the handed Alabama a loss, Blake Sims had put together an unbelievable storybook season.
From an athlete without a position, to the back-up quarterback with no chance to ever be the starter, to overcoming all of the negativity to become a record-setting quarterback at Alabama, Blake Sims embodied everything we strive to be as everyday people. He proved that, through hard work and a dedication to his own unique abilities, it is possible to overcome even the most improbable of situations.
He finished his senior season with 3,487 yards on a 64.5 completion percentage, and an absurd 8.92 yards per attempt. He threw 28 touchdowns to only 10 interceptions, and added 350 yards and 7 touchdowns on the ground. He is now the record holder at The University of Alabama for the most passing yards in a single season.
As Blake prepares to enter the NFL, he will once again be considered an underdog, and may not even be drafted. Yet his time at Alabama has given us as fans some of the best memories and gut-wrenching, emotional moments we could ever ask for. Blake Sims, we salute you.
Never change, Blake, never change.