His eyes drift down to the work before him. Last semester Joe switched his major from biology to English. Football practice had made it too difficult for him to schedule labs.
"Hemingway, you know, he wrote about young men coming of age," Joe points out, rubbing his head. "And he liked to get as close to death as possible. I'm doing a paper on this story here, 'The Capital of the World.' It's about a Spanish waiter who pretends he's a bullfighter and gets killed by knives attached to a chair." Joe studies what he has written down. Across from him, on a calendar, there is a group picture of the Alabama head coaches. They stare solemnly out at the room. One figure has the autograph "Paul 'Bear' Bryant" scrawled across it.
"One of the guys in the hall did that," says Joe, blushing slightly. "He's about immortal...Coach Bryant, that is."
Joe returns to his paper. "How does this sound? 'Paco, a young waiter at the Pensión Luarca, a restaurant....'
"No. Wait." Joe starts again. " 'A young waiter by the name of Paco at the Pensión Luarca, who....' Hmmmm."
The literary problem is temporarily delayed by the entrance of two of Joe's teammates, fellow sophomore redshirts Mike Inman and Mike Clements. Predictably, the conversation turns to football, and redshirting. Clements, in contention for a starting cornerback position, admits he deserved to be redshirted so he could have another year to learn defensive techniques. "Still, when you first hear about it, it's bad," he says. "You say right off, 'Oh man, four more years.' " Like Joe Jones, Clements will be almost 24 when he graduates in 1981.
Inman, a 6'5", 230-pound defensive tackle, was held back primarily because of a broken foot that he had suffered before the 1977 season. "I was working in a gas station back home in Loganville, Ga. and some guys were tickling me, poking me in the back, and I dropped a jack on my foot," he says sheepishly. "But I watched myself in the films and I realized I was in the rough anyway." After breaking his other foot this spring, Inman is now recovered and is a second-string tackle.
The young men all agree their early performances at Alabama were hindered because they were "scared to death" as freshmen. "It's such a big step coming to a place like this," says Inman. "I was lost. You go into the locker room and there's somebody like Bob Baumhower walking around looking like a Greek god."
"Or how about Wayne Hamilton," adds Clements. "Remember when we were freshmen and he was so scared and homesick he locked himself in his room and wouldn't come out?" Last season as a sophomore the 6'5", 228-pound Hamilton obviously felt more secure. He started at defensive end for Alabama and was credited with 50 tackles, six sacks, two passes broken up, two recovered fumbles and an interception. He was picked to the second-team All-America squad by Football News and to the first-team Academic All-SEC unit.
"It just takes a while to come on," says Inman.