Most teams in Conference USA are not looking for a repeat of the 2018 football season.
But don’t count UAB – the 2018 champions – in the vocal majority. The Blazers say they’re working hard to prove everyone else wrong.
“We’re just looking for something to play with,” quarterback Tyler Johnston said. “If they say it, they say it. We’re going to play with it. We’re going to go out and show everybody.”
Defensive back Brontae Harris thinks the Blazers, a year removed from “The Return,” have done enough to prove themselves.
“We’re working hard to earn our respect from the conference,” said the redshirt junior who was lost for the 2018 season after a foot injury and surgery. “We thought we earned it last year, winning the championship, but obviously we didn’t.”
Everybody’s entitled to their opinion, junior running back Spencer Brown said, but he and his teammates “know what we know.”
And that is?
“We know we’re gonna repeat.”
UAB kicks off the 2019 season with a home game at Legion Field at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 29, against the Hornets of Alabama State.
Coach Bill Clark compared the past few seasons to a movie, as the UAB football program was shut down after his first season in 2014, only to be resurrected in a tidal wave of corporate and fan support.
The Blazers made a triumphant return to the gridiron in 2017, notching eight wins and earning a Bahamas Bowl bid. But 2018 was an epic sequel to The Return as Clark’s crew won 11 games, the Conference USA championship and their first bowl game in program history — 37-13 over Northern Illinois in the Boca Raton Bowl.
And while the Southsiders relish their success – recorded on canvas in a recently unveiled portrait by Steve Skipper – they say they’re hungry to build on that success.
“We’re going to enjoy everything that happened before,” the coach said. “Those are things that can’t be taken away. We’re going to build off those things.
“But it’s time for the next year,” he continued. “Somebody said, ‘What’s your favorite ring?’ One of the (New England) Patriots guys said, ‘It’s the next one.’ This team’s looking forward. This team wants their own ring.”
The reborn Blazer football program had 34 seniors on its 2018 roster. Their departure – and the loss of 15 starters combined – is a lot to overcome, but the players who follow those seniors learned to lead.
“I think seeing how we train, seeing how we lift, seeing how we practice, these guys have been through that,” Clark said. “That’s going to help us in some other ways.”
Said Brown, the 2018 first-team all-Conference USA selection and Conference USA Championship Game MVP, “It’s a confidence the older guys from last year instilled in us. They were good role models (with) work ethic, consistency … we’re going to apply it to this season.”
Harris said the Blazers have plenty of returning talent.
“On offense, defense, we have a ton of guys people don’t know about,” he said. “That’s why we’re humble and we’re still confident. We know we’ve got people to fill those places in. They may not be seniors, but we know we’ve got people in those spots so we’re ready to go and we’re ready to show what we’ve got.”
Clark echoed that sentiment. “I think this group knows what it looks like, what it’s supposed to be like. We’ve talked about that all summer. That proof’s been in the pudding to what we’ve done. Now it’s your turn. What are you going to do with it?”
Download or print a complete schedule of all 15 Alabama college football programs, including UAB, here.