For Alabama and coach Nick Saban, the 2022 season carries the added goal of avenging the program’s loss to Georgia in last year’s College Football Playoff national championship game.
Every year, the CFP runners-up receive a trophy for their effort, a memory Saban and the 15 starters slated to return this fall will likely carry all year long. During a media session held Friday following Alabama’s second fall practice, one of those returning players, redshirt senior offensive lineman Emil Ekiyor, revealed the Tide chose to keep the trophy in a rather prominent place as motivation.
Ekiyor told reporters the team stores the keepsake in the cafeteria of the Mal M. Moore Athletic Facility as an added reminder of what’s at stake entering next season.
“It’s a sign under it that says, ‘Participation trophy.’ Are you happy with it?’ So, just a little motivation just to see that every day,” said Ekiyor, whose 15th start of the year came in the Tide’s 33-18 loss to the Bulldogs in Indianapolis. “It reminds you like, OK, this is what we’re really working for, to change the outcome of the season and focus on being the best that we can be this year so we can, ultimately, have a different outcome at the end of the year.”
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Alabama’s CFP title game loss in January marked the program’s sixth trip to the big game, and its seventh CFP appearance since the format was introduced in 2014. Ekiyor is one of five returning offensive starters, including reigning Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young.
A perennial title favorite who finished the regular season 12–1, Alabama enters the season tabbed with the No. 2 recruiting class for the 2022 cycle behind Texas A&M.
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