TUSCALOOSA, Ala.—It takes an awful lot to make a guy like Nick Saban cry, but a reunion of a son and his deployed mother comes pretty close.
Lawrence Erekosima is a five-foot-seven walk-on running back from Clinton, S.C. He hasn’t seen a snap of action all season. But he’s a senior, and like all seniors, he walked onto the field before Saturday’s Iron Bowl to bask in the acclaim of the crowd. He also had a fine surprise waiting for him, as his mother, Jacqueline Page, returned on a brief leave from the Army.
Each of the Tide seniors posed with their families and Saban before the game. Seniors are generally introduced in alphabetical order, but Erekosima was last. Team officials told him that they’d simply mixed up the order, and when Saban reached Erekosima, he motioned toward the southwest corner of the field and said, “Look here.” Out walked Page, in fatigues, to see her son. Mother and stunned child embraced amid the thundering cheers of Bryant-Denny Stadium:
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 26, 2016
A 12-year veteran of the Army, Page has served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and presently is deployed in Kuwait. Until Saturday afternoon, Erekosima had not seen his mother since February, shortly after Alabama won the 2015 national championship. They talk every day, but there’s a world of difference between talking to your mother and hugging her.
“I couldn’t believe it at first, and then it sunk in,” he said after the game. “I almost cried. I had to hold it in, just let one tear like Denzel.”
“He’s a fine young man; he’s been in the program for a long time,” Saban said. “I have a special place in my heart for players [like Erekosima] … For his mother to be able to come today almost made me cry.”
Erekosima took a bit more time getting back to the locker room and back onto the field for the Iron Bowl, understandable given the circumstances. He didn’t get a chance to play in the game, but the Tide managed to hold on for a 30-12 victory regardless.
This Alabama class has a 49-5 record, two (and counting) SEC titles, one (and counting) national championship. But a guy who never saw the field has given the class one of its finest moments.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at email@example.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.