Wednesday, September 05, 2007

We almost lost Javy...

Some "behind the scenes" info from Ivan Maisel...

On his first kickoff return of the season, Alabama sophomore Javier Arenas went 30 yards to the Western Carolina 47. On his second, he set a personal record, taking the kickoff 45 yards to the Catamounts' 36. Both returns set up touchdowns in the Tide's 52-6 victory, and the Bama coaches named Arenas the special teams player of the week.

"Saturday was like a big party," Arenas said.

Not bad for a player who talked to head coach Nick Saban last month about quitting the team.

It is easy to forget that 19-year-olds who shimmy through and around opposing tacklers go through emotional crises.

"I was just thinking negative as far as my playing defense," said the 5-foot-9, 193-pound reserve free safety from Tampa and a cousin of NBA All-Star Gilbert Arenas. "I just can't really explain it. I wasn't being treated unfairly. It was just me. I had to make a decision in my life. I had to question whether I wanted to play or not. … Basically, I didn't know if I wanted to proceed."

Arenas said his dissatisfaction had nothing to do with his teammates, whom he didn't want to let down. Arenas met with Saban, who said that he would respect whatever decision Arenas made.

"He wanted me to think it over," Arenas said. "I told him I was questioning a lot of things."

Over the next three or four days, Arenas just sat and thought. He kept coming back to what Saban had told him. And he reminded himself that he had never quit.

"I know he's been around it for many, many years," Arenas said. "He's seen a lot of situations like that. He told me I would regret it. … [What Saban said] wasn't even about playing football. It was about academics and a great opportunity in my life. I couldn't let that go."

It sounds as if Arenas re-recruited himself to Alabama all over again. He said he felt more relaxed on the field Saturday, which may explain the two kickoff returns past midfield.

"I am more confident," Arenas said. "Everything is in place."

All of which made his August crisis seem as if it belongs to a different person. Maybe it does.

"I look back and think, 'What was I thinking?'" Arenas said.

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