Tweet Home Alabama: Fans getting inside glimpse of Tide players through social media
by Mark Edwards
Aug 11, 2012 | 5989 views |  0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Erica Stanfield loves Alabama Crimson Tide football and is a self-described “Twitter addict.”

These days, it’s easy to combine the two.

Stanfield, 36, uses Twitter for a variety of reasons, but the Guntersville resident said one of the biggest is to follow her favorite current and former Alabama football players.

“Some of my favorite players’ tweets are Kenny Bell, AJ McCarron, Jesse Williams and Barrett Jones,” said Stanfield, an office manager. “My favorites from former players are Dont’a Hightower, Julio Jones and Mark Ingram.

“They’re favorites because they interact with fans the most — AJ, Kenny and Dont’a — and their sense of humor is entertaining to me.”

The two current Alabama players with the most Twitter followers among starters appear to be All-America center Barrett Jones, who has more than 16,900, and starting quarterback AJ McCarron with more than 17,000. Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri appears to have the most followers among defensive players with more than 12,300.

It’s not unusual for the players to field various requests from fans. Usually, it’s little more than asking for a little recognition.

For example, a mother of four asked McCarron to retweet her post because “I have the best boys in the world.” McCarron obliged.

A man who was turning 53 asked McCarron to retweet his post for his birthday. Again, McCarron did so.

Jones allowed fans to get involved in his Twitter discussion several weeks ago about whether “Seinfeld” was a better television show than “Friends.”

Jones believes “Seinfeld” is best, hands down: “It’s about a lot of everyday situations that could happen to just about anybody,” he said in a recent interview.

One fan, Alabama freshman Kaci Crumpton, got defensive lineman Jesse Williams to smile and pose briefly for a photo after Sunday’s Fan Day practice. Later that day, she sent him the picture through Twitter and thanked him. Williams retweeted the photo to allow his followers to see it.

Stanfield posted a tweet recently and saw that Tide freshman wide receiver Amari Cooper not only retweeted it, but marked it as a “favorite.”

“As a fan, it’s almost like getting a celebrity to tweet at you or retweet you,” she said. “It feels sort of like an accomplishment.”

However, she said that most importantly, she wants the Alabama players to know how fans feel about them.

“I felt like (Cooper) knew he had fans’ support ... like he knew we were proud to have him on our team,” she said. “I always want the players to feel support from fans, and Twitter can be great for that.”

Jones seems to have the most fun of Alabama players with Twitter, often showing off a low-key sense of humor. After a recent practice in which he and other Crimson Tide players did the traditional “up-down” exercise, he wondered on Twitter why it’s called “up-down.” After all, the players hit the ground, then get back up.

“Why do they call it an ‘up-down’ when really it’s a ‘down-up’?” he posted.

Jones said he likes keeping it light on Twitter.

“It’s fun for me,” he said. “I like it most to get information. So much information is available. But it’s also fun. I think I have a good sense of humor. I like to laugh, and Twitter is a place where we can have fun.”

Perhaps the most popular Alabama player on Twitter is Carson Tinker, a reserve who snaps for extra points, field goals and punts. Tinker has become one of the faces of the Tuscaloosa community’s recovery from the April 27, 2011, tornadoes. His girlfriend, Ashley Harrison, was killed in the storms, but Tinker became a source of strength to his teammates, friends and family in picking himself back up.

He has more than 17,100 followers, and like Jones, he likes to keep it light. He recently posted a photo of a dry-erase board with a bunch of math figures on it.

In his post, he wrote simply: “I figured out the physics behind matching laces on a FG snap.”

Tinker also was the one who initially outed teammate Jesse Williams for bench pressing 600 pounds. Tinker tweeted about the accomplishment, and because he has so many people reading his tweets, a minor Twitter stir followed.

Williams retweeted every posting he could find, leading one Twitter follower to ask if he was going for 600 retweets, too.

“I like Twitter,” Williams said. “It’s a great way to keep up with fans.”

But does he worry about other teams seeing his accomplishment and taking aim at him?

“I doubt a lot of my opponents really follow me on Twitter,” he said, smiling. “But it exploded a lot further than I expected. I’m sure other teams got a whiff of it. I had friends from my junior college call and ask me about it, ask if it was real and stuff.”

So what does Alabama head coach Nick Saban think of this? Does one of college football’s most controlling coaches approve of his players tweeting?

“As long as they do it responsibly, I trust them,” said Saban, who has no official Twitter account. “When they don’t, then abuse brings control. Pretty self-explanatory.”

However, he does make sure his players are monitored.

“We have a rule that you don’t post anything about our team,” he said. “We monitor what they tweet because, A, we don’t want them to represent themselves poorly from a character standpoint, and, B, we don’t want them to do anything representing the team or what the team is trying to accomplish to be compromised by what they post.”

When LSU dismissed All-America defensive back Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu on Friday, a quick check of player Twitter accounts that afternoon showed that only one player had posted anything about the former Bengal Tiger. It was Cooper, and his post appeared innocent enough: “As an Alabama wideout I wish the honey badger would’ve still been on that team.”

Stanfield said it’s clear to her the players are following some guidelines.

“It really makes me proud because I’ve been following several Bama players and I haven’t seen any of them get out of line like I have players from other teams. Whatever Coach Saban’s policy is to his team, they obviously follow it.”

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