FAIRHOPE, Ala. — Two weeks after Alabama’s thrilling national championship game win, hundreds of Crimson Tide fans packed the stands at Fairhope Municipal Stadium in hopes of getting anything — a glimpse, a handshake, an autograph — from the kid who grew up across the bay in Mobile.
Jake Coker already had plenty of memories in that stadium.
The good: Going to Senior Bowl practices with his dad to watch a short list of Tide idols including (but not limited to) Andrew Zow, Tyler Watts and John Parker Wilson.
The bad: His most recent trip, a varsity loss to the Fairhope Pirates that left him “not too fond of that place.”
Following a one-off practice session at the stadium on Tuesday, he waded through several media opportunities, then sauntered off to the fence. The crowd shifted with his movements, trying to pinpoint the exact spot where he would begin greeting it.
“Sometimes I wonder why people want my autograph,” Coker said afterwards. “But I really appreciate the way they’ve welcomed me here.”
The Alabama star is back home with something to prove: That he’s more than the late-round flyer many NFL draft analysts assume him to be.
Tuesday was his first chance to show executives, coaches and scouts something special.
“I want to go out there and prove I can play in this league and be a guy that can help the team out,” Coker said. “But at the same time, I think if I try to go out there and prove everything, it’s taking my mind off having fun and playing. So it’s more about just making every play I can.”
He’s part of a South roster that includes former Mississippi State star — and Heisman candidate — Dak Prescott, as well as record-setting Arkansas passer Brandon Allen.
It’s unlikely any of them will be picked in the first three rounds. But that’s why they’re here.
Coker had a so-so day, flashing the same tendencies (iffy footwork, questionable decision making) that keep chaining his cannon arm near the bottom of the draft board.
He has two more practices and Saturday’s game to show a spark. Then it’s off to pro day, the scouting combine and other means of proving himself to a league that — one year ago — didn’t have him on its radar.
“Heck, man,” he said Tuesday morning. “I’m just going out there trying to have fun and sling the ball around. I just hope they like what they see.”