Falcons' White offers encouragement to UAB players

UAB linebacker Jordan Ricks has been amazed by the support since the announcement that the program was being dismantled.

Auburn and Alabama fans reached out on social media and thousands have watched video he captured of the players' emotional reaction after university President Ray Watts told the team of his decision Tuesday. A professor even pushed back a deadline on a paper and trimmed the requirement by a couple of pages.

The professor ''understands that a lot of us are having to pick up and move in a little less than a month, and figure out where we're going,'' said Ricks, a Birmingham native who grew up going to UAB games. ''You have to focus on school and everything but your mind is still on this. It's like, `What's your next move?' There's a little bit of confusion.''

The Blazers got the news a few days after completing the best season in a decade under first-year coach Bill Clark.

The raw emotion on display at the meeting with Watts was evident in the video, which drew more than 450,000 views on YouTube by Wednesday evening.

Tristan Henderson, a 26-year-old tight end, rose from his seat a few feet from Watts and talked of serving in the military before college.

''I was in a bunker in Iraq,'' Henderson, who is from Los Alamitos, California, told Watts. ''I watched two of my soldiers walk out and get blown up. Two of them, right in front of me. And from that day on I knew what a brotherhood was. I felt it. ... In my soul I felt it. When I came here, that's what this turned in to. That's what this is.''

He spoke of trying to answer his 3-year-old son's question about what's going to happen.

''There's 18-year-olds in here, 17-year-olds,'' Henderson said. ''What are they supposed to do? Some of these cats came from 3,000 miles away to be a part of this, to be a part of all of this. But you say numbers. That's what you come to us and say, numbers.''

UAB cited a 16-page report from consultant Bill Carr indicating it would cost at least another $49 million over the next five years to field a competitive football team, including such expenses as a new field house. The university cited rising costs in college athletics including paying cost of attendance, which Carr estimated at $5,442 for each player.

Ricks, who sat out the season after back surgery, said some teammates aren't sure they want to keep playing football ''because they don't want to play with anybody else. We know each other so well.''

Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White, a former UAB star, said Wednesday that he was ''saddened'' by news that the university was shutting down the program. He also offered encouraging words for players left without a team.

''The football program was a big part of that community, and the people in that area made great impacts on the lives of those young men, including myself,'' White said. ''I know those players are going through a lot of emotions right now, but I want them to know that you have an opportunity to continue playing college football and continue to work towards your degree. Do not allow this decision to derail your dreams.''

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide — from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Grant Wahl, Andy Staples and more — delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.