An extravagant moment

Posted by Ellen

Alabama punt returner and cornerback Javier Arenas made a prediction in early December, about a month before the Tide defeated Texas in the Rose Bowl to claim its first national championship since 1992. "It will be," he said, "an extravagant moment."

Only he wasn't talking about taking a shot at the national title. He was referring to the commencement ceremony scheduled for Dec 12, when he would receive his college degree with a major in public relations, after just three and a half years at Alabama. In addition to completing heavy courseloads and winning national recognition on the football field, Arenas won awards for public service in Tuscaloosa, working with children in local schools and hospitals.

The only competition he lost was his race with his brother, who played football at Nebraska, to become the first college graduate in the family. His brother graduated last spring. "I'm second, but it's still a great honor," Arenas said. "From no one in our family graduating from college to now two college graduates--I'll take that any year."

Despite being one of the smallest players in Division I college football, at just 5-9, Arenas's football statistics ranked him high on the top-ranked team in the nation. Before the championship game, his total punt-return yardage was just a few yards shy of the national NCAA career record; with just one or two half-decent returns at the Rose Bowl, he would be able to set a new all-time record. But Texas wasn't taking any chances; every kick was directed to the part of the field farthest away from Arenas, even if it meant kicking out of bounds. He will leave Alabama still ranked as only the second-best punt returner in history.

Now, after last night's game, Alabama has the championship, its 13th in school history, and Arenas's teammate Mark Ingram has the Tide's first Heisman Trophy. Meanwhile, Javier Arenas, an all-American who almost certainly will be drafted early by the pros, has his degree. "If football doesn't work out," he said, "I'll be fine working in my field."

That's the way all college sports stories (and all cowboy movies) are supposed to go. Sometimes life imitates mythology.