TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Growing up, University of Alabama offensive lineman Deonte Brown and running back Najee Harris had two very different outlooks on the Iron Bowl rivalry between the Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers.
Brown, a native of Decatur, Ala., knew the importance of the annual game from birth and ever since he first stepped foot on the gridiron.
“Any kid that plays football in Alabama, they dream of this game," Brown told reporters on Tuesday via Zoom. "This is a great rivalry.”
The 6-foot-4, 350 pound lineman also received an invite to the Reese's Senior Bowl, which he accepted. It will be the final time he suits up in his home state in January.
“Growing up in Alabama playing football — seeing past years’ Senior Bowls — [and] getting an invitation one was a blessing," Brown said. "I was very, very grateful for it and I was excited to get it. I really didn’t expect for me to get it but when I did I was very humble about it.”
On the other hand, Harris is a product of Antioch, Calif., and before enrolling in Tuscaloosa, he had no clue of just how impactful this rivalry is until his freshman season in 2017.
"Since my freshman year, I didn't really know nothing about any of the rivalries in college football, to be honest with you, coming from California — especially in the South," Harris said. "The only thing I knew about was the USC and UCLA one. But I come here, and it's called the Iron Bowl. I didn't even know nothing about it.
"But playing in the first game, experiencing my first Iron Bowl freshman year, the environment was crazy, you know what I'm saying? It's a huge game that people out here take very seriously, so since they take it seriously, obviously we gotta take it seriously. I take it seriously. The first game, I lost my first Iron Bowl, because they stormed the field. Second game — second Iron Bowl, we won. And this last one recently, we lost. I'm 1-2. So, you know, we're all looking forward to playing in this Iron Bowl and seeing how things go."
Florida native, cornerback Patrick Surtain II could sense the electricity of the matchup during the lead up to kickoff.
“I knew there was something special based on the anticipation for the game," Surtain said. "Before the week even started, we were talking about -- we always have a thing where we talk about what’s your record against Tennessee? What’s your record in the national championship? And what’s your record against Auburn? It’s one of the biggest rivalries in college football and the most anticipated rivalries. I expected it to be that way.”
For Brown, Harris, the rest of the Crimson Tide's senior class, and potentially Surtain, if he decides to head to the NFL draft and forgo his eligibility, the Iron Bowl on Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m (CT) will mark their final time inside Bryant-Denny Stadium.
And another loss to the Tigers would guarantee a losing record against the in-state foes for this senior class and the junior class would be at 1-2.
The Crimson Tide will want to make sure that revenge is enacted on Auburn from last year's crushing 48-45 loss at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"It's been a good ride," Harris said. "This will be my last game at Bryant-Denny Stadium. But I'm not gonna play any different. I'm gonna play how I always play in each game. I'm happy for the times I've been here and playing at Bryant-Denny. It's been fun, some fun moments, some fun experiences.
"But I'm just ready to play Saturday against Auburn."
This story will be updated with video of today's players press conferences.