Why this tennis ball means so much to Alabama receiver
Calvin Ridley was lurking, hovering near his fellow receiver late in the brief interview period of Saturday’s media day.
His eye was on the fuzzy sphere held by fellow Alabama receiver Cam Sims.
“That’s my tennis ball,” Ridley said with a purpose, “and he took it.”
It turns out these two Alabama receivers use the round ball from the hard court and apply it to their craft catching inflated leather on grass.
“It’s just to work on my hands,” said Sims, a senior whose role appears to be growing in his final season. “I keep a tennis ball with me.”
This appears to be one of the non-traditional methods Alabama receivers have adopted to cut down on dropped passes. Sims said the tennis ball has been in his hands since he was a kid.
“It just keeps my hands active,” he said. “It’s just a way to keep your hands strong and catch the football and keep a good grip.”
He also said Alabama receivers will catch tennis balls thrown to them after practice to improve hand strength. Every bit helps, especially for an Alabama offense that had a few costly drops against Clemson in last season’s national title game loss.
Robert Foster, another senior who’ll have a bigger role this fall, is familiar with Sims’ tradition.
“Man, Cam always has that tennis ball,” he said with a grin. “I think it’s for … Cam’s so big, I guess it’s for his hands, catching the ball and tracking the ball and hand and eye coordination. I never had the opportunity to hold it.”
While it appears Sims and Ridley have some kind of competition over the neon polyester, Foster steers clear.
“What’s his is his,” he said, still smiling. “I don’t mess with any of that.”
Sims got off to a promising start to his Alabama career in 2014. He got significant playing time in the season of Amari Cooper, catching seven passes for 62 yards. Production slowed after a major knee injury the following spring in practice. Sims still played the 2015 season, catching six passes for 46 yards.
Things improved by his junior year when 14 catches accounted for 152 yards. A 31-yarder against Kent State nearly went for a touchdown.
With an opening at slot receiver this season, Sims appears to be on track to have a much larger role moving forward.
“I feel like I’m producing a lot more in the offense,” Sims said. “I’m having great practices so I should have a productive year.”
And at least some credit must go to the strength he’s spent years building.
It all traces back to that precious tennis ball Sims clutched Saturday.
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Published at Mon, 07 Aug 2017 12:18:51 +0000