Alabama center Barrett Jones showed no signs of a lingering foot injury during his return to practice this week, teammates say. Then again, most of them didn’t notice a difference the day he hurt it either.
Alabama center Barrett Jones is the keystone for an impressive Crimson Tide offensive line.
Jones said he can remember a specific play early in the Tide’s 32-28 SEC Championship win over Georgia when the pain arrived. He was having “too much fun” against the Bulldogs to leave the game. So, he hid his grimace from his coaches or even his teammates lining up a few inches away.
“I did not know that he was even hurt during the Georgia game, so that should let you know how he played,” junior quarterback AJ McCarron said Thursday morning. "I'm not concerned at all about him playing this [Monday].”
Nearly a month after the injury, Jones arrived in Miami in a walking boot but practiced with his team anyway. Head coach Nick Saban said he wanted to see his All-America center in action before Monday night’s national championship showdown with No. 1 Notre Dame. By all accounts, Jones and his foot fell into step immediately with the rest of the offensive line, which is good news for the Crimson Tide.
The former Outland Trophy winner who slid down to center this season is the glue that holds together the best offensive line anyone in Tuscaloosa can remember taking the field in recent history. He’s pitted in a key role against the Irish matched up against 326-pound nose guard Louis Nix.
“He’s a big part of the offense,” said running back Eddie Lacy, who ran for 1,182 yards behind Jones and Co. this season. “He’s the one that keeps the offensive linemen together and keeps them levelheaded.”
Jones directs traffic along the line. He’s played all three positions during his tenure at Alabama and is smart enough to explain them all. The Campbell Award (the “Academic Heisman”) winner is the owner of a 4.0 GPA and a master’s degree in accountancy. On Thursday, he exchanged witty jabs with reporters and McCarron, his roommate on the road.
It’s no surprise that Jones joined Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o on the postseason awards circuit for much of early December. He said he got to know the Irish linebacker and his family while sitting through banquet dinners and autograph sessions.
“I just tried to constantly find out what their schemes were and what they were going to do,” Jones said, deadpanning. “I’m kidding. We just talked about non-football things.”
It’s back to strictly football things for Jones during the next few days. He said he needs to take care of some unfinished business in his final college game. Jones had no trouble admitting this year’s front five was the best he has been a part of from both a talent perspective and a chemistry perspective. The self-described student of college football history deferred questions about their legacy among the all-time Alabama greats until Monday night.
“Ask me after the game,” he said. “We have had a good performance up to this point but your entire legacy is based on how you finish. You have to finish the right way.”