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Goodman: Inside the biggest week of Josh Jacobs’ life

Have you ever just had one of those weeks?

You know, when everything comes together all at once, and you’re a different person when it’s all over. A better person.

Everyone has them. They make us who we are. One monumental moment after another.

For Alabama running back Josh Jacobs, this last week has provided a succession of experiences that will stay with him for the rest of his life. On the football field, Jacobs looked like an NFL-back among boys in the Orange Bowl. He’s a junior but, Jacobs appears ready for professional football.

For the safety of opposing college safeties, it’s probably best that he goes ahead and turns pro after the College Football Playoff national championship game. This Monday, he’ll take the field against Clemson for what could be his final time with the Crimson Tide.

Sandwiched in between the two playoff games, Jacobs celebrated the birth of his second child. That’s why he was excused from practice earlier this week. The news wasn’t made public because Jacobs, obviously, didn’t want to detract or distract from Alabama the week of its fourth national championship game in four years.

So, mystery solved there.

In a quiet moment on Saturday away from the cameras here in San Jose, Calif., Jacobs acknowledged the special week for him personally. He didn’t want talk about it, though.

Jacobs did, however, address some of the speculation in a group setting.

“It’s funny how you all come up with stuff,” Jacobs said. “I heard some people said I failed a drug test. If I failed a drug test, I wouldn’t be able to play in last week’s game. … I’ve never done anything wrong since I’ve been at Alabama. I’ve never been in trouble or anything like that.”

Jacobs has a history of withholding information on media day of national championship games.

Last year in Atlanta, the back wore a protective boot to media day before the game against Georgia. When asked about the reason for the hardware, Jacobs said his injury was no big deal. He actually had a broken ankle which required surgery two days after the game. Jacobs broke his ankle in week five of the 2018 season, but played through the pain.

So, the guy’s tough. He now says that injury made him better.

“I’ve never had a major injury, so that was my first one,” he said. “Learning how to come back from that, and practice harder than I ever have is probably the biggest thing. Just learning how to grind in terms of injury.”

Jacobs has always been something of a grinder, though. From Tulsa, Okla., he wasn’t highly recruited out of high school until Alabama offered him his senior season. He played through a shoulder injury his junior year of high school, according to must-read story by Adam Kramer of Bleacher Report, but still rushed for about 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns. As a senior, Jacobs played Wildcat quarterback, and averaged over 15 yards a carry.

It’s almost unbelievable now, considering Jacobs’ dominance over the last month, but Alabama was the first team in the FBS to offer him a scholarship. Opposing coaches like to say Saban can recruit and land whoever he wants, but discovering Jacobs proves he can still dig and mine for the diamonds, too.

Jacobs says Saban’s reputation as a grumpy curmudgeon is all wrong, too.

“The media got him so wrong,” Jacobs said. “That’s the funny thing about it. He’s one of the funniest dudes I know. He’s definitely a player’s coach. He doesn’t really yell at the players. He more yells at the coaches. But he’s real cool. He makes jokes all the time throughout practice.”

Saban has built his dynasty at Alabama on the shoulders of highly rated, five-star running backs, but Jacobs isn’t from that mold. This season, though, he has transformed into a powerful, punishing rusher with excellent hands out of the backfield.

It doesn’t take a trained eye to recognize Jacobs’ gifts, but there’s more to his developing game than that, says former Alabama great Shaun Alexander. Alexander was at media day on Saturday promoting a new national award for the country’s top freshman football player. The award is named in Alexander’s honor, and the first winner will be named on Monday before the national championship.

“[Jacobs] knows how to pick up speed right when the hits about to come, and so that’s the thing that we do that’s the most similar,” Alexander said. “I really wasn’t this brute strength guy, but I could shed tackles, and that’s because in three steps I could pick up speed so quickly, and that’s what Josh has figured out in his game. He knows how to do that well, and that’s what’s going to help him.”

Jacobs was the MVP of the SEC championship game, and delivered the highlight of the game last week in the Orange Bowl when he caught a pass from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and crushed Oklahoma safety Robert Barnes in the open field.

Jacobs left Oklahoma an underrated player. When he goes back, he’ll be a national star.

“It’s definitely huge to be able to go home and have bragging rights,” Jacobs said. “That’s probably the biggest thing for me.”

Here’s how preposterously ridiculous Alabama talent factory is right now. If Jacobs turns pro after the national championship game, which he is now expected to do, it will be the second year in a row a backup running has left school early and declared for the NFL Draft.

Bo Scarbrough, one of those former five-stars, did it last year after rushing for just 23 yards on four carries in the 2018 College Football Playoff national championship. Jacobs is expected to feature a little more prominently.

It’s setting up to be another life-altering day.

Joseph Goodman is a columnist for the Alabama Media Group. He’s on Twitter @JoeGoodmanJr.

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