After a day filled with rumors, Coach Nick Saban has confirmed in a statement that Tide offensive lineman Aaron Douglas has died. His body was reportedly found in the greater Jacksonville, FL, area. No cause of death has yet been identified, but certain rumors have persisted that we won't get into here. Regardless of how he died, it's just as tragic and sad for his family, friends, and team mates.
The son of a former Tennessee Volunteer football great, Douglas followed in his father's footsteps to UT. Unfortunately, he arrived in Knoxville during the most tumultuous period in the football program's history. He redshirted during Phil Fulmer's final season and rode out the storm surrounding his departure, ultimately becoming a Freshman All-American in 2009 under new coach Lane Kiffin. But then Kiffin bolted for USC, and Douglas decided he wasn't interested in starting over again with Derek Dooley. So he took the junior college route out of town, settling in at Arizona Western College where he would again earn All-American honors.
While there, he likely benefited from being the team mate of one of Alabama's top defensive targets in the 2011 class, Jessie Williams. The Tide coaches ended up giving him a look and ultimately offered him the opportunity to succeed the outgoing James Carpenter at left tackle. Douglas jumped at the opportunity to get a second chance in the SEC, playing for the then-defending national champions, no less. Of course, his comeback story wasn't all roses from there.
Set to enroll in January, Douglas was arrested for DUI in December. Most considered it a risk on Bama's part to sign Douglas, and there were quite a few told-ya-so's going around at the time. Nonetheless, the coaching staff stuck with their commitment to him, though with a zero tolerance discipline plan in place for him. And so Douglas' first four months on campus in Tuscaloosa passed without incident. Spring practice didn't quite unfold for him the way most expected, as he found himself stuck on the 2nd OL behind Alfred McCullough and Barrett Jones (which in retrospect may have been related to discipine for his DUI arrest), but he was still very much in the competition to be the starting left tackle for a potential national title contender this season.
And that brings us to today.
His passing has potentially far-reaching implications for the Tide's offensive line situation, but those are concerns for another day, a long time from now.
I sincerely hope the rumors of the cause of his death aren't true. But then again, I don't know if there are too many ways a healthy young man, an elite-level athlete at that, turns up dead far from home in a peaceful way. I get the overwhelming sense that the story of his final moments isn't going to be pretty, one way or another. Hope not, but that's just my feeling. And in it's own way, that will make it all the more sad.
On behalf of the Zealots, I send out our condolences to his family, friends, coaches, and team mates.
Man, it's been a tough couple of weeks in Tuscaloosa.