SEC notebook: Gene Stallings is Aggie through and through
HOOVER, Ala. -- Gene Stallings is a Texas A&M man through and through.
That might pain Alabama fans to hear — Stallings led the Crimson Tide to the 1992 national championship season — but it's a tale of origins. Texas A&M is home to Stallings, and Stallings calls Kyle Field home.
He played at Texas A&M under Bear Bryant (another Alabama legend) as one of the famed "Junction Boys." He later took his first head coaching job for the Aggies. There's no divided loyalty when the rubber meets the road.
"When Texas A&M plays Alabama, I'll be for Texas A&M," Stallings said. "Love Alabama, no question about that, but that's who I'll be for."
Stallings resided on the Texas A&M Board of Regents as talks of realignment began trickling into College Station, and he said he pushed hard for the rest of the board to take a long, hard look east — to the SEC. Although Stallings was not on the board when the final decision was approved, he takes no small pleasure in his alma mater joining a league where he found so much success.
But the road ahead is rocky, full of obstacles.
"They're gonna have a hard time, you got to be realistic," said Stallings, who compiled a 97-62-2 record as a college coach. "I mean, you've got a new coach, a new quarterback, playing five or six teams that've won the national championship."
That doesn't diminish Stallings' building anticipation for the upcoming season. He's lively here at SEC Media Days, strolling through radio row in the Wynfrey Hotel, shaking hands with Alabama fans and honoring more interview requests than all but the conference's biggest stars.
He knows the 2012 season will be tough. He doesn't seem to mind.
Texas A&M is in a good place. He knew when he recommended the Board of Regents to consider talking with commissioner Mike Slive that, if this day did come, immediate national championships were not guaranteed.
"One thing I did tell 'em, I said, 'You join that conference you gotta wear long britches,'" Stallings said. "They don't wear short pants in that league."
The Aggies are just beginning to dress the part.
The shooting of former Auburn players Ed Christian and Ladarious Phillips left the Auburn community stunned last month.
Gene Chizik took a moment on the podium at SEC Media Days — the open in statements of his speech — to recognize the support from the Auburn family, media and college football community as a whole. However, he did mention that the healing process is not complete.
"[This is the] first opportunity I've had to publicly thank so many people for their outpouring of love and prayers and emails and phone calls to the Auburn family since that tragic night, June 9th, when three young men were shot and killed, two of them being former Auburn football players," said Chizik, the head coach at Auburn since the 2009 season. "I do want to say thank you. I don't think it would be right of me to stand up here in my first opportunity publicly and not do that."
Christian redshirted and did not play in 2011 due to injury. Phillips played sparingly as a blocking back last season.
But their minor roles on the field did not diminish their meaning off of it. That's what has made this entire ordeal so difficult for the Tigers.
"We got to still plow through some of those tough days, and we know that," Chizik said. "We're providing all the resources for them possible to keep them moving in a positive direction."
Kentucky's offensive guard Larry Warford is a musical mammoth.
The 343-pound Outland Trophy candidate jams to the Foo Fighters on bass. He's the team's best dancer, showing off moves to any tune from 'Call Me Maybe' to 'My Humps.'
Offensive linemen are too often grouped into a narrow stereotype characterized by eating and lifting weights and, generally, being large, imposing men. To dispel this notion, perhaps other interior linemen need Warford's roommate.
"My sophomore year my roommate had me playing the guitar, but I was just strumming it and not very good," Warford said. "Then, my junior year, he said, 'Hey, you want to play the bass?' So we jam a lot, just bought a new amplifier."
When talking to teammate and fellow offensive linemen Matt Smith, more Warford stories leaked. He also can dance, apparently well.
"I have my moments. I have to feel it, be in the spur of the moment and then bust a move," Warford said. "My freshman year I would just go out onto the field and start dancing … my cousin, Paul, who used to play for us, would be like, 'Hey Larry, show 'em how to dance, man.
"So I started working it."
Kentucky’s record may not amount to much this season, but the Wildcats might lead the country in rhythm per metric ton.