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46 Things to love about Alabama: Javier Arenas

The return man that helped spark a dynasty

In 2006, Javier Arenas joined the Alabama football team as a return specialist, and was immediately an impact return man for the next 4 years. He was a decent returner as a freshman, but averaged under 9 yards per return, though two touchdowns really raised expectations for him.

The next three years were the transition years for the Alabama football team as Nick Saban changed the culture from mediocrity and wistfulness to a stone-cold killer and and winning a national championship. Arenas was a major part of that culture shift as his infectious attitude and limitless energy often sparked drives for an otherwise listless offense. In his sophomore year, teams started punting away from him so his attempts went down, but he made a major leap forward to an outstanding 15 yards per punt return (and 24 yards per kick return).

But, like the rest of the team, 2008 was when Javy really broke out. On top of increasing his punt return yardage to 16/return, he returned three of them for touchdowns. He also evolved from just a return specialist to the team’s starting nickel back where he picked up 63 tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown.

In 2009, Arenas had totally cemented his reputation as a return man and, though his punt return average stayed the same and his kick returns continued to jump to 29 yards per return, he got a significantly reduced workload as teams kicked away from him. He passed the SEC mark in career punt return yardage, and was closing in on the NCAA mark before Texas decided to punt every ball out of bounds. On top of that, Arenas had 5 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, and 5 interceptions as a defender his senior season on his way to being named All-American.

His 1752 career punt return yards still leads the SEC and is 2nd to only Wes Welker all-time. He’s also the all-time SEC leader in career punt return touchdowns, and is 4th in the NCAA.

After 5 seasons in the NFL with the Chiefs, Cardinals, and Falcons, Arenas hopped between a few more teams in the offseason before joining Alabama’s staff as an off-field assistant, working with defensive backs and returners.