Tennessee’s Kamara ready to face former Alabama teammates
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara’s return to Alabama to face his former team isn’t stirring up any hard feelings on either side.
Kamara began his college career with Alabama in 2013 before transferring to Hutchinson Community College in Kansas and eventually landing at Tennessee. The Volunteers (3-3, 1-2 SEC) play at No. 8 Alabama (6-1, 3-1) on Saturday.
Although he stayed only one year at Alabama and never played a down for the Crimson Tide, Kamara said he’s ”appreciative” of his time there. Kamara said working with Alabama’s star-studded group of running backs helped him improve.
”It made me better because I knew what it took to compete, what the true definition of competition was,” Kamara said.
This marks the second time in four years that the Tennessee-Alabama game has included a Tennessee player who began his college career with the Crimson Tide.
But Karmara is taking a much different approach than former Tennessee defensive end Darrington Sentimore, who said before the 2012 game: ”I want this game more than any other game because I want to beat (Alabama coach Nick) Saban.”
Kamara said that he and ex-teammates such as running back Derrick Henry and safety Eddie Jackson regularly wish one another the best in their upcoming games.
”Every weekend we kind of shoot messages back and forth in group messages, like `Good luck this Saturday,’ ” Kamara said. ”It didn’t happen this week yet because we play them on Saturday. I’m not going to send them good luck this Saturday.”
Kamara served two team suspensions and struggled with injuries while redshirting with Alabama in 2013, but the Tide only had good things to say about him this week.
”He probably would have played here for us as a freshman, (but) he got a knee injury, just a scope that kept him out for three or four weeks right at a critical time early in the season,” Saban said. ”Then we could never get him back in the swing of things because he missed so much time.
”He got a little frustrated with it, but we’re happy to see he’s doing well.”
Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland referred to Kamara as his ”little brother.” Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen said Kamara was a popular teammate.
”When he was here, he was cool,” Allen said. ”Great guy to be around, great team player. I love the guy.”
Kamara has rushed for 255 yards and three touchdowns on 45 carries this year. He also has two touchdown catches. He has scored on one punt return and had two other touchdowns on punt returns nullified by penalties.
He says he’s grown up since leaving Alabama. Kamara said his junior-college experience helped him appreciate the benefits that accompany playing for an SEC program.
That change in attitude made a favorable impression on his new teammates. Tennessee offensive tackle Kyler Kerbyson acknowledged he was initially concerned because ”the connotation of a JUCO transfer is never really that good.”
”But as soon as I met Alvin, I could tell he was different,” Kerbyson said. ”Being able to work with him in the summer and spring and just feeling his presence and what kind of leader he is, he really did show me he’s a great guy.”
Kamara says he’s assisting the Vols this week by telling them everything he knows about his former Alabama teammates.
”Anything I can do to kind of help them and give some of these guys an edge, that’s what I’m doing,” Kamara said.
But he otherwise is trying to treat this week just like any other.
”I played there, enjoyed my time there,” Kamara said. ”I’m here now, loving being able to be with these guys here at Tennessee. It’ll be a fun experience, just being in Bryant-Denny (Stadium), but at the end of the day, we’re got a job to do over here, so that’s what I’m focused on.”
AP Sports Writer John Zenor in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, contributed to this report.
AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org