While we’re at it, thank you, Nick Saban.
In a summer where the college football news has been about failed drug tests, changed grades, unruly recruits, suspensions, dismissals, Penn State fallout and fatal shootings, Tinker and Saban gave us a feel-good story.
It’s the kind of story that comes up every year and reminds us what remains to love about college football in an era when the sport tests our love like a troubled family member.
Every year, coaches get an idea of their 105-man roster, mull their open scholarships and award one or more to deserving walk-ons.
Every year, a kid who has done the work of college football without benefits finally benefits in a way that serves both as personal validation and financial rescue for his family at a time of skyrocketing college costs.
It ranks right up there with the Army-Navy game among the best things about college football, and it’s natural to feel good for every kid who sees that day.
It’s natural to feel good about the coach, even if some team-building calculation factors into the decision. There’s at least an element of altruism, and that’s refreshing when major collegiate sports reminds us all on an almost daily basis that it’s gone almost all big business.
After Saban famously sat with tornado victims, including Tinker, in April of 2011, it’s not hard to believe that something genuine happened here.
Most of all, it’s easy to feel good for Tinker, Alabama’s fifth-year senior long snapper who learned Tuesday that he will play this season on scholarship. As stories about walk-ons getting scholarships go, this is as good as it gets.
Everyone knows the story of how the monstrous tornado that cut through Tuscaloosa on April 27 of 2011, sucking Tinker and his girlfriend, Ashley Harrison, out of his home and throwing them several yards.
Everyone has heard about how Tinker came to in a field and immediately, desperately, went searching for his loved one.
He was in the hospital when told she had been found. Only after making family take him to see her would he allow himself to believe she was gone.
The same storm that hit T-town that day cut a path of destruction that stretched all the way through northern Calhoun County and into Georgia. Like so many in Alabama, the storm’s surviving victims stand more than a year into recovery.
Recovery is relative, especially for those who lost loved ones, but we’re starting to see the graduation pictures.
Check out what has become Tuscaloosa’s iconic intersection of 15th Street and McFarland Boulevard. There’s a new Full Moon Barbecue.
As of this week, a new Krispy Kreme doughnut shop is open for business. The grand-opening line reportedly stretched quite a ways.
A block down 15th Street, there’s a new McDonald’s. It might not mean as much to some as Krispy Kreme, but the old McDonald’s was always this scribe’s landmark. It told me where to turn on drives to campus.
For a time, there was only a fenced-in lot where the old McDonald’s stood. Thanks to the storm, I had to learn the name of the street — Dr. Edward Hilliard.
It’s good to see scenes of recovery, even amid still-visible scars of destruction.
It’s even better to see a tragedy-to-triumph story like Tinker, who called the scholarship an “answered prayer.” He also hugged his coach when he got the news.
“I think that made him feel a little awkward,” Tinker said, tossing in some all-too-believable comic relief.
Stories like Tinker’s keep major college football from becoming all too unbelievable.
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.