Carson Tinker plays the most unglamorous position in football, but his touching story will have you pulling for the Crimson Tide special teamer in tonight's BCS Championship.
Tinker was hurt when a devastating EF4 tornado demolished 5.9 miles of real estate in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on April 27. But his girlfriend, Ashley Harrison, was one of 52 to lose their lives as a direct result of the twister.
Winds of nearly 200 mph slammed right into the Alabama long snapper's home during the life-altering storm.
Harrison had been hoping for a trip to the Superdome tonight to witness her boyfriend's Crimson Tide win a national championship. In fact, she had predicted it. Harrison even informed her mom and dad back in Dallas to make New Orleans travel plans, since Tuesday would have also been her 23rd birthday.
Tinker, who met Ashley at a party a year and a half ago, is doing his best to make her prediction come true. He convinced Alabama athletic director Mal Moore to leave a couple of tickets in her name for parents Darlene and David to buy for the big game.
While Tinker, who was thrown almost 100 yards when the monster twister hit, has recovered from his physical injuries (concussion, broken wrist, nasty deep cut on his ankle), it's the emotional pain that still haunts him. Harrison was at his house watching TV when the tornado struck.
"I don't really want to talk about that kind of stuff," he told the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
The day after the tornado struck, Harrison's parents traveled to Alabama looking for Ashley. They found her at the morgue in a stack of bodies.
Carson Tinker didn't believe his girlfriend had died. The Times-Picayune reports the family, along with Alabama football coach Nick Saban, attended a visitation and Carson demanded doctors release him from the hospital so he could attend. An ambulance took Tinker to the visitation while he was strapped to a gurney.
Although he's been asked to give speeches about his loss, Tinker has been unable to talk much about that tragic day publicly. However, he's done a handful of motivational speeches at churches about living for the future.
Despite being offered cash for his words, Tinker turned it down, instead requesting it be added to scholarships that have been set up in tribute of his late girlfriend. There are a total of four scholarships adding up to more than $70,000 in her name.
"She always wanted me to play my heart out," Carson told the Times-Picayune, while choking up. "She always told me she wanted me to play in the NFL. She always told me she wanted me to play for the Cowboys. I always keep that with me and hold on to that."
Ashley had given Carson a Louis Vuitton wallet for Christmas, and in that wallet he kept a special letter she'd written for him. During the tornado, the wallet was lost. A few days after the storm, it was recovered. All the money and credit cards were gone, but that special letter Ashley had signed with a heart "Ash," survived.
Carson Tinker continues to carry that letter around in his wallet today.
On his Twitter page (@Carsontink), Carson seems like a pretty normal college student; he's got photos with college football broadcasters including Erin Andrews, Holly Rowe, Verne Lundquist and Tracy Wolfson.
The University of Alabama gave Ashley a gradation certificate posthumously back in August. A plaque in Harrison's memory was also added to the Crimson Tide locker used by Carson Tinker at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
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