TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Injured Alabama safety Eddie Jackson limped slowly onto the field at Tiger Tiger Stadium on Saturday, wearing a smile that hid the pain of his season-ending leg injury.
After fracturing his left leg during a punt return against Texas A&M, the senior now serves as a visual reminder to the rest of Alabama's players that every play could be their last. Before Alabama's 10-0 victory over LSU, Jackson made that message clear, delivering a heartfelt speech to his teammates in the locker room.
"Eddie told us before the game, 'If this was your last game, how would you play?'" Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey said Monday. "We were just out there, he got to crying, saying, 'Man, I wish I could be out there.' It means a lot, just coming from him because, I mean, he came back for his senior year just to come back and get this championship."
Several Tide players wore messages reading "Four for 4" or "Do it for 4" against LSU to honor Jackson, who wears the No. 4. Following the game, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick dedicated the rest of Alabama's season to the injured safety.
Alabama fans chant "Eddie, Eddie" as Eddie Jackson arrives at Tiger Stadium pic.twitter.com/tqiYpKxblg— Marq Burnett (@Marq_Burnett) November 5, 2016
Fitzpatrick, who took over Jackson's role at strong safety, said he turned to the senior for advice before the game. It paid off, as Fitzpatrick recorded his fourth interception of the season to help put the game away in the fourth quarter.
While Jackson is no longer able to help the Tide with his contributions on the field, his leadership is still felt throughout the defense.
"Before the game, he was right there in the huddle with us as we were about to go out there on the field," Humphrey said. "I think having him on the sideline is kind of just like an assistant coach to me."
Saban encouraged by play of Brown, Fitzpatrick
With Jackson out, Alabama was forced to alter its secondary, sliding Fitzpatrick to safety while moving defensive back Tony Brown into the Star position during the Tide's nickel package.
Both players played well in their new roles, as the Tide held LSU quarterback Danny Etling to 11-of-24 passing for 92 yards and an interception.
"Minkah played well in the game and we're happy with the adjustments that he made," Saban said. "Didn't make a lot of mental errors. Really played well. And he's a bright guy that is a good competitor and really prepares well for a game. I think his disposition probably helped him be able to do that. We were certainly pleased with the way he played in the game."
Saban was also complimentary toward Brown's play on the night, saying that the junior just needs to work on his confidence and consistency moving forward. Brown, a former five-star recruit, missed the Tide's first four games while serving out an NCAA suspension. Before making his first start of the season against LSU, he had primarily played on special teams.
"The guy is a great competitor," Saban said. "He just has to channel his energy in the right direction, which he's made tremendous progress at. He's done well in school, kind of getting things right on and off the field and we're happy with the progress he's made and hopefully he'll continue to develop a better understanding of how when you're on a team, your role on the team affects everyone in terms of what you do so you can continue to be a good teammate to those you're playing with."
Team celebrates Saban's 200th win
Saturday's victory marked Saban's 200th collegiate win. Saban is 200-60-1 as a college head coach, and only two other coaches have reached the mark in fewer games than him: Joe Paterno and Tom Osborne.
"You got to tip your hat to Coach Saban," Alabama running back Damien Harris said. "What he's done, not only for us but for college football over the past however long he's been a coach, is just something we may never see again. Just to have him as our coach, we're so grateful for what he does for us on and off the field. He does a great job of coaching us, not just as football players but as men."
Harris said after the game, the team took special pride in being able to get the win for their head coach, especially an important game.
"It's just a great feeling, something that we could do for him," Harris said. "He was really proud of us for the way that we fought and competed in the game for 60 minutes. We really did a good job."
Linebacker Ryan Anderson and punter JK Scott received SEC honors Monday, as Anderson was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week, while Scott earned Co-Special Teams Player of the Week.
Anderson had six total tackles, including one for a loss, to go with a sack, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry against LSU. His tackle for a loss gives him a team-high 12.5 on the season.
Scott averaged 51.6 yards a kick on five punts, including a long of 66 yards. Four of his five punts on the night traveled more than 50 yards.
Both players were also recognized by Alabama coaches as players of the week. Alabama's entire defense was selected as defensive players of the week, while center Bradley Bozeman, left tackle Cam Robinson and running back Bo Scarbrough were selected on offense. Scott and linebacker Keaton Anderson earned special teams honors.
This article was written by Tony Tsoukalas from The Anniston Star and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.