TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Nick Saban called it one of the greatest rivalry games in college football.
For some players from the state of Alabama, the Iron Bowl means a little more. Crimson Tide starting offensive lineman Javion Cohen went to Central High School in Phenix City, Alabama about 45 minutes from the Auburn campus.
Cohen was once committed to the Tigers before flipping to the Crimson Tide and enjoyed celebrating Alabama's Iron Bowl win in Jordan-Hare Stadium last year.
A few weeks later, he posted video on social media trolling Auburn with the "crimson crane" as the Tigers practiced for the Birmingham Bowl. Cohen said he wants to handle things with a little more sportsmanship this time around, but understands how much this game means.
"It’s a huge game, not only for me, but for this whole facility, for the entire state of Alabama," Cohen said Tuesday. "Everybody knows the implications of this game regardless of the record, regardless of where we are. We all know this is a game that you want to win. It’s a resume game. And I plan on fighting as hard as I can and trying to make sure me and my teammates get back to the Alabama standard.”
Cohen is one of 45 players on the Crimson Tide roster from the state of Alabama with along with the likes of kicker Will Reichard, defensive back Kool-Aid McKinstry and defensive lineman DJ Dale.
Even though Dale did not grow up an Alabama fan, he recognizes the significance of playing in the game.
"This is something in the game you dream of playing in, being a kid from Birmingham, so it’s a dream come true," Dale said.
Last season, McKinstry made the key stop on defense as a true freshman for Alabama in the fourth overtime that set up the game-winning two-point conversion from Bryce Young to John Metchie III. Will Anderson Jr. said last year's game holds his two favorite Iron Bowl memories.
"When Kool-Aid got that stop, he deflected the pass in the end zone, and then when Bryce went down and the offense went down and scored," Anderson said. "I think those two moments were the biggest moments ever. That’s just as a team. I was so happy... Those moments right there are moments that you cherish forever because those are the moments that you have with your brothers that you spent all offseason working hard with."
Young grew up in California, but he isn't shying away from the significance of this game, even after already cementing his name as an Iron Bowl legend with the comeback performance last season.
For the first time since 2018, Alabama will play in front of a full crowd in Bryant-Denny Stadium for the Iron Bowl since the last home game in the series was limited-capacity crowds due to COVID. The players are excited about the opportunity to cement another chapter in the legacy of the rivalry this Saturday.
"The history in this rivalry is something that’s going to continue to carry on, whether I’m here or gone, that’s just a part of it," Cohen said. "Showing some sportsmanship would be advised of course. But it’s a new year, a new season and just ready to finish the week 1-0.”
Get your Crimson Tide tickets from SI Tickets HERE