The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

December 27, 2012

Alabama family's surprise is watched by millions


About 24 hours later as Christmas was winding down, the video stood at around 37,000 views and Daniel said his phone was "going ballistic." Then it hit sports network giant ESPN and its bellcow, SportsCenter.

It was at 1.8 million before they left home Wednesday for an early supper at the Oxford exchange. It'd gained more than a million views before they'd gotten up from the table.

"I'd already been a little teary eyed sitting there watching the kids because they were so excited," Don said. " . they were just making me so happy.

"When that other happened, the volcano just kind of erupted."

That shaky smart phone video where Don chokes back tears and trades words for yips of joy continues to make its rounds and captivates countless people ranking as the most-read story on Yahoo! on Christmas day.

The whole thing though is just another chapter — albeit more widely read — in the story of the life of this 20-year Alabama season ticket holder and his family. The smiles are chiseled in the faces of Don and Daniel when they talk about the family outings to Tuscaloosa on those hallowed Saturdays in the fall. Even when his job with the railroad took him outside the confines of the state where he was raised, they still had their Saturdays.

Don, 59, didn't see his first Iron Bowl until he was 41. He took his oldest grandson, Mason, 4, this year.

When Alabama and Notre Dame exchange blows in Miami for that crystal football, this will be the family's first bowl trip. Just another reason it's so special.

"On Feb. 13, 1979, I held my newborn son right up here at RMC, held him in my arms and told him how much he and I were going to enjoy Alabama football," he said. "Almost 34 years later, I'm reaping those benefits."

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