Football's unsung heroes have a new hero. A patron saint. A man who boldly went where few had gone before.
Sir Barrett Jones, the Alabama center, has been knighted by his fellow offensive linemen of many generations. Toasts, if not statues, will be raised to the man who stood up to a quarterback.
Jones shoved his quarterback, AJ McCarron, on Monday night in the national championship game, relieving the frustrations of 100 years of quarterbacks getting all the glory while the linemen do all the grunt work.
“One of the coolest things I've ever seen,” said former OU center Vince Carter, now a regional director for Oklahoma's Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
With seven minutes left in the Big Bowl and Alabama rolling over Notre Dame 42-14 Monday night, McCarron animatedly called for the snap, but Jones was changing the line call. McCarron yelled at his center, went through a series of gyrations and finally tried to call timeout, though too late to avoid a delay-of-game penalty.
McCarron barked in Jones' face, and the burly Jones had had enough. He shoved the star of the show, a two-time national champ quarterback, an Alabama legend. In front of God and country and McCarron's beauty-queen girlfriend, Jones put his hands on his quarterback with the same disgust he used on the Notre Dame defense.
It was the best television since the third season of “Lost.”
One minute, Nick Saban's Crimson Tide is a well-oiled machine of fundamentals and flawless execution, the next minute they're the Bronx Zoo Yankees.
“I loved it,” said former OSU offensive lineman Sam Mayes. “There's nothing worse than some yappy skill player getting in your face.”
Barrett Jones' shove was payback for every quarterback who showed up his linemen on the gridiron. The Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler, Cam Newton crowd.
“I respect a guy not taking lip from the glamour boys,” said former OSU offensive lineman Paul Blair.
Linemen don't always take such verbal abuse. But they usually retaliate in private.
“I've been in huddles with a quarterback, and a senior offensive lineman just reamed him out,” said former OSU offensive lineman Derrel Gofourth.
But such a public display?
“Never seen it before,” Carter said. “I thought it was cool. Sometimes a quarterback can get a little full of himself.”
Turns out, McCarron and Jones are roommates and best friends. They had a humorous, but smileless, response to their tat-a-tat.
Jones: “I was right.”
McCarron: “He's full of it.”
McCarron said they spat like that every day. “I love him,” McCarron said. “He takes care of me, I take care of him. We really are best friends.”
But offensive linemen take a lot of guff. They get little of the credit and much of the blame, and on occasion a quarterback condemns his blockers in the public marketplace.
“I've never been that mad at a quarterback,” Mayes said. “They know that you protect them. It's the running backs who never stop talking. If they miss a hole, it's your fault.”
Mayes said his old teammate, tailback Tatum Bell, often drew linemen's ire with his constant criticism in games.
“We wanted to hit him in the mouth,” Mayes said. “Especially in the fourth quarter, we were exhausted.”
Carter said his relationship with Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jason White was solid. “We would share a (disgusted) look every now and then,” Carter said. “He didn't need to say anything. That's just the kind of relationship we had.”
Apparently, the relationship between McCarron and Jones was a little more volatile. Which led to Notre Dame linemen, standing there gawking like they were on the schoolyard — “Fight! Fight!” – waiting for the principal to break it up.
“That was awesome,” said Bubba Burcham, another former Sooner center. “I thoroughly enjoyed that.”
So did anyone who ever toiled on an offensive line.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.