Columnists, Sports

Fish and Chipps: Replacing legends

Quarterback Blake Sims has been on one hell of a ride.

Since he began playing for the University of Alabama Crimson Tide in 2011, he has won two national titles and watched his team amass an incredible 36-4 record over that time span.

You’ve probably never heard of Blake Sims though, and for good reason.

Sims ride has been one of epic proportions, but over the course of his Alabama football career, he has played almost no part in his team’s unprecedented reign of success.

For the last three years, Sims has been the backup quarterback to Alabama star A.J. McCarron. While sitting on the bench, Sims has watched his predecessor shred defenses, win national titles, become a Tuscaloosa, Ala., legend and steal the hearts of Winn-Dixie.

In his three years at Alabama, Sims has attempted just 39 passes and thrown for less than 300 yards.

But with McCarron off to the NFL and gone for good, Sims finally has the opportunity to make a name for himself and solidify himself as the “go-to” guy in Tuscaloosa.

But Sims is not the only quarterback in college football who will be charged with the task of replacing an elite college quarterback.

At this time two years ago, newly appointed head coach Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M University was without a starting quarterback. After losing Ryan Tannehill to the NFL Draft, Sumlin was desperate to find a competent replacement to keep the Aggies competitive in their first year as members of the Southeastern Conference.

In came an undersized and underappreciated redshirt freshman by the name of Johnny Manziel. At first glance, Manziel was a cocky underclassman that had already been arrested once for disorderly conduct. But as we all know, that didn’t stop Manziel. He went on to become the first freshman to win the Heisman trophy and in the process became the most talked about player in college football history.

Sumlin once again sits a crossroads, with Manziel gone to the NFL and fifth year senior Matt Joeckel transferring. So the coach is desperate to find a quarterback who can keep his team relevant in America’s toughest conference.

While Sumlin and Texas A&M look for someone to rise above the rest of the field and take control of the starting quarterback job, Blake Sims must also prove that he is capable of leading a loaded Crimson Tide team that intends on remaining one of the elite teams in college football.

How do you replace a legend? Can you replace a legend?

These questions have always crossed my mind. After years and years of watching college football, I think I finally have an answer.

You don’t.

Replacing Johnny Football or A.J. McCarron is like trying to replace your favorite football jersey. You just don’t. All you can do is finish that chapter of your life and write a new one.

Regardless of what transpires between now and the fall, someone will attempt to follow in the shoes of Johnny Manziel. Whoever that may be, they must realize that trying to fill Manziel’s shoes is impossible. Winning games is the only way to rid the memories of Johnny Football, not with incredible acrobatic displays of greatness that Manziel so frequently delivered.

In Sims’ case, three years on the bench is a long time to wait for a chance to become the starting quarterback. But now Sims must prove he is worthy of leading the Crimson Tide back to the national championship.

One of the reasons why college football remains such an exciting entity is because you get to watch legends exist while new ones enter frequently.

A.J. McCarron was the starting quarterback at Alabama for only three years, but it seemed like a lifetime for college football enthusiasts who continued to watch McCarron beat their favorite team and rack up award after award.

But unlike the NFL where the AFC East has faced the wrath of Tom Brady for more than a decade, SEC opponents can shed a sigh of relief knowing that McCarron is long gone after three years of reckoning.

Now it’s Blake Sims’ turn to write a new chapter in the Alabama Crimson Tide’s long book of college football dominance.

The journey from bench warmer to star quarterback is always unique and underappreciated, and Sims story is no exception.

With one year left of eligibility, this may be Sims’ last shot at the limelight.

Will he blossom in his last shot at stardom, or will he be derailed by McCarron’s legacy and disappoint the Tuscaloosa faithful?
It seems only time will tell.

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