No 2013 recruit knows the Alabama-Tennessee rivalry, or the Third Saturday in October, better than Crimson Tide linebacker commitment Walker Jones.
His father, Rex, attended the University of Alabama where he played played basketball. Both of his brothers, Barrett and Harrison, currently play football for the Tide. Barrett, the eldest of the trio, will be playing in his fourth and final rivalry game against the Volunteers.
Walker hasn’t been on the sidelines for a game yet, but he’s been in the stands for every UT game from even before his brothers started playing.
“It’s a great rivalry,” Walker said. “It’s got a lot of good history. I think this is either my eighth or ninth game in a row, and I’m trying not to miss one for awhile. I guess we’ll see how long that streak goes.
“A bunch of them stand out. They’re all unique. I was there when we forced the fumble on the goal line and won, 6-3. I was really young at the game. We’ve whipped them a few times lately, and that’s been pretty fun.”
Growing up, Walker Jones wasn’t particularly fond of Tennessee with his family’s background. However, his perception of the Vols has changed since going through the recruiting process. They were one of his finalists before he picked Alabama.
“It’s not like I dislike them,” Jones said. “They recruited me really hard. I really grew to like them and all of the coaches down there, so that definitely gives me a new perspective on it. I know all of the great people that they have had come there. It gives me a better respect for them that you wouldn’t have if you didn’t know anybody down there. It’s a great program.”
Asked if he’ll still be rooting for the Tide on Saturday, he answered, "You could say that."
The game itself figures to be a lopsided affair with Alabama, the No. 1 team in the nation, expected to dominate a struggling Tennessee team. But it’s still a rivalry, and Jones knows UA needs to be careful heading into the game.
“They do kind of scare me,” he said. “Obviously, Alabama is heavily favored, but [Tennessee’s] spread offense is pretty explosive with Tyler Bray. They’ve got some pretty good athletes like Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson.
“Every game has a possibility to be an upset, but hopefully, we can go in and take care of business and show why we’re the heavily favored team.”
This will be the last UA-UT rivalry game Jones will have to watch from the stands. Next year, he will be on the sidelines when the rivalry is renewed, and just like his brothers, he’s already circled the game on next year’s schedule that came out this week.
“I have a lot of friends that go there and that are going there from my grade,” Jones said. “Some of my really good friends are going there, so that will be really cool because they’ll get to always come down to the game and see me play. It will definitely be something special for me.”