The definition of a Champion

I’ve been going to The University of Alabama football games since I was a little girl. Both of my parents were graduates. My brother is a graduate. My husband and I are graduates. We’re an Alabama family, so of course I was excited when we won the National Championship!

The members The University of Alabama football team are champions. Trent Richardson is a champion. AJ McCarron is a champion. And of course, Nick Saban is definitely a champion.

When I looked up the word champion in an online dictionary, this is what I found:


  1. One that wins first place or first prize in a competition.
  2. One that is clearly superior or has the attributes of a winner
  3. An ardent defender or supporter of a cause or another person
  4. One who fights; a warrior.

I’d like to add to the definition…no, I’m not Merriam-Webster, but I do have my own thoughts about what a champion really is — on and off the field — and I think it’s more than just awards and accolades. In fact, #3 of the definition is my favorite.

My grandfather is a champion. Oh, he hasn’t won any awards playing football or won a pulitzer prize, and in fact he didn’t even finish school; but he is a champion — of character and of fatherhood.

Galatians 5:22-23 in the Bible, it says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” To me, a real champion is one whose life is exemplary of the fruit of the Spirit each and every day and is devoted to family. Some would disagree, but I dare say it’s a harder challenge to be a character champion than to be a sports champion. I pray for each of these traits in my own life and talk to my kids about pursuing the Lord for these qualities, yet I fail in front of them daily. It’s a constant, daily pursuit and renewal of the mind. But, my Grandad exemplifies the fruit of the Spirit every day, and has done so my whole life. Even though he had a tough childhood, was in World War II, has been through a very bad car accident and probably has lots of reasons why he could be bitter and cranky, he’s not. He’s kind, loving, gentle and selfless. And talk about faithful…he and my grandmother have been married over 60 years! He’s definitely #3 of the definition of a champion I listed above, “An ardent defender or supporter of a cause or another person”. He’s as loyal as a black lab and I’m not sure I’ve ever heard him utter an unkind word about another person. Seriously! I can also say that he was at every recital, program, and big event in my life, supporting me without question. I could count on he and my grandmother to be a proud smile from the audience or bleachers — every. single. time. always. He has always loved me not only with his heart, but also with his time.

Last week my Grandad turned 90 years old. He’s been an Alabama football fan his whole life, and that’s a really long time to be a fan y’all! So, I decided to take him to Tuscaloosa for a tour of Bryant Denny Stadium, the Athletic Complex and the Bryant Museum. My grandmother and my parents also went along for the fun. Even though I was a student there, I had never toured any of these facilities; so it was exciting to get a better glimpse inside Alabama football with one of their biggest fans and a champion himself — my Grandad!

I’m making him a little brag book to show his buddies at church prayer breakfast, so I though I would also share with you what I saw through my lens to include in his book. A big thanks to our college friend Thad Turnipseed for helping to make the day even more special by getting us onto the field!

Love the Coke bottle and Golden Flake bag someone had left on Bear Bryant’s statue after winning the BCS!
A gift of Little Debbie cakes for Saban.
Checking out the field from The Zone

It takes $500,000 to be put on a 10 year waiting list for a skybox.

Eli Gold’s seat

There were murals and collages on most of the walls in the recruiting rooms. Pretty amazing!

Another recruiting room wall – such incredible sports photography!

View of campus from The Zone

The locker room. I expected it to be dirty and smelly, but it wasn’t – at all! No one is allowed to walk on this circle except Coach Saban. We were specifically told that before entering the room. When you get near it and stand in the very center of the circle your voice echoes. So, this is where Coach Saban stands to talk to the team at half time. The only time players set foot in this circle is when they win. They jump in, sing the fight song and jump right back out.

This locker was set up just for show

As the players head out from the locker room into the tunnel, they reach up and tap this sign that says “WIN”.

Tunnel where the players go out onto the field

A champion in the tunnel

Another champion in the tunnel – my dad

strength and wisdom

We all had to get our photo with Trent! This image was in a corridor off the main team tunnel. It was painted with murals of Trent’s records, awards and achievements as a nod to his Heisman nomination.

Grandad doing the Bear Bryant pose 🙂 He’s pretty cute, isn’t he!

After our tour of Bryant Denny, we decided it was time to grab some lunch.

We ate at 15h Street Diner, but it didn’t hold a candle to my grandmother’s good southern cooking! I even used to come home from Tuscaloosa for Sunday lunch and Nannie and Grandad’s table. It tasted especially good since back then I was living on late night cereals and bagels!

After lunch we were ready for more Roll Tide indoctrination so we headed over to the Athletic Complex to the Hall of Champions.

Highlight of the day for me was seeing the actual Heisman.

Looked with my eyes and not my hands – just like I tell my kids to do! 🙂

Checking out the teams from when he was born

Our last stop on the Bama Birthday tour was The Bear Bryant Museum.

A Waterford crystal replica of Bear Bryant’s hat

2009 Coaches Trophy

Small replica of the large bronze statue that now sits in front of the stadium by The Walk of Champions

I was so excited when I saw this because I remember drinking these as a kid! Then my mom reminded me it is now in a museum! 🙁 Total buzzkill.

It was a great day. One I will always remember.

8 responses to “The definition of a Champion”

  1. Kim Chase Alexander Avatar

    Love the photos, Heather! What a great birthday present!

    1. Heather Durham Photography Avatar

      Thanks Kim! It was fun being back on campus for a day.

  2. Wes;ey Edwards Avatar
    Wes;ey Edwards

    I stumbled across your site while looking for pictures of the 2011 waterford crystal. The pictures of your grandad touring the facilities totally made my day. He really seems to be enjoying it and seems like someone that I would like to meet. The pictures of him looking at the Bust of Coach Bryant and the one of him walking toward the field through the tunnel I liked best. Roll Tide!!

    1. Heather Durham Photography Avatar

      Thanks for your kind comment Wesley and for sticking around to visit my blog. Hope you find the Waterford you were looking for and ROLL TIDE! 🙂

  3. Nikki Avatar

    Well said and documented!!!! Your brother and I want to purchase a copy! 😉

    1. Heather Durham Photography Avatar

      Just ordered our books. They will be here by Jan 31st. 🙂

  4. Stacy Avatar

    Ok…I just cried. What a way to honor your Grandfather. I love him…and I’ve never met him. ROLL TIDE.

    1. Heather Durham Photography Avatar

      Thank you Stacy! If you knew him you would love him too! He is super special! Thanks again for stopping by! 🙂

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