With size and skill, Fluker will be big man on Alabama campus
At 6-foot-7, 350 pounds, Alabama commit D.J. Fluker is a mountain of a man
The No. 3 overall prospect wears size 22 shoes and can't find gloves that fit
With size, skills and competitive drive, Fluker should fill Andre Smith's void
D.J. Fluker stuck out his right hand and smiled. I reached to shake it, and as his palm swallowed mine, I felt something on my forearm. His index finger, with no more opposing hand around which to close, tapped just an inch or two below my elbow.
Let's get one thing straight. I am not small. I stand 6-foot-3 and weigh 260 pounds. But in the grip of the giant who might be the next great hope for Alabama football, I looked like a 10-year-old. Which, incidentally, is how old Fluker was when he first palmed a basketball.
Anyone who meets the offensive tackle from Foley, Ala., can't help but think, "My, that's a large gentleman towering over me." But the handshake invites a second inspection. Besides the massive paws, Fluker also has size 22 feet, a 46-inch waist, a 36-inch inseam and a conspicuous lack of body fat. He's 6-7 and 350 pounds, and the vast majority of it is muscle. That's why everyone in Alabama -- except the Auburn fans, of course -- is so excited Fluker plans to sign with the Crimson Tide on Feb. 4.
Nose tackle Terrence Cody, all 6-5, 365 pounds of him, won't be Tuscaloosa's only giant-in-residence once Fluker arrives this summer. Danny Lee Jesus Fluker entered this world in 1991 as a 12-pound anvil of joy. By eighth grade, he stood 6-3 and weighed 400 pounds. Playing football melted away much of Fluker's baby fat. So did occasional trips to the basketball court, where Fluker -- who wears the same shoe size as Shaquille O'Neal -- can do more than just dunk. "I can windmill it," he said.
Fluker has shoulders as wide as a side-by-side refrigerator, and he'll need every inch of them to carry the weight of expectations the Tide faithful will heap upon him when he gets to Tuscaloosa. Andre Smith, Alabama's left tackle since the moment he set foot on campus in 2006, will become the cornerstone of some NFL team that underperformed in 2008. Plenty of folks think Fluker can more than fill Smith's void, but that's asking a lot of a player who only has one season's experience as an offensive lineman.
But just try tempering expectations about a player who took away his fellow U.S. Army All-American bowlers' breath. "He's not even human," joked Penn State-bound offensive lineman Eric Shrive, from Scranton, Pa. Just try quelling the excitement for a player who, after two All-American Bowl practices, caused Rivals.com recruiting analyst Barry Every to gush to his colleagues: "I say this half-jokingly, but Fluker's family needs to petition [NFL Commissioner] Roger Goodell to allow him to be drafted," Every told the site. "I believe he would be drafted right now in the first day."
That's the potential Foley (Ala.) coach Todd Watson saw when Fluker transferred to the school last year. Fluker had dominated on the defensive line at McGill-Toolen (Mobile, Ala.) as a sophomore. Family issues took Fluker to Biloxi, Miss., for his junior year, where he remained at defensive tackle. When Fluker moved back to south Alabama in January '08, Watson, well aware those size-22s could dance, suggested a position change. Watson, an assistant at Hoover (Ala.) before he came to Foley, had seen Smith play plenty at Huffman (Birmingham, Ala.). In Fluker, Watson saw an even larger version of Smith. He had a few problems, though.
Problem No. 1: "I hated offense," Fluker said.
Problem No. 2: Watson had to find a pair of size-22 cleats.
Problem No. 3: Watson had to find Fluker a pair of lineman's gloves.