Five years ago today in a game against Florida, former Alabama star receiver and kick returner Tyrone Prothro suffered a horrific leg injury that is burned into the memory of not just Crimson Tide football fans, but anyone who remembers seeing the play.
The injury came in the fourth quarter of a 31-3 blowout of the then-No. 5 Gators in Tuscaloosa. Prothro recently described the play to Jason Galloway of the Univ. of Alabama’s THE CRIMSON WHITE student newspaper:
It was all the starters’ last play,” said Prothro, who had 134 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the game. “The DBs were playing aggressive, so we called a hitch-and-go. I had him beat by at least five yards.”
But an underthrown ball allowed Florida cornerback Dee Webb to catch up and bump Prothro while he was in the air. After an awkward landing, a Bryant-Denny crowd that had been erupting all game was suddenly in a silent shock.
During the landing, Prothro literally snapped the tibia and fibula in his left leg. The gruesome injury ended his playing career - though Galloway reports that at the time, Prothro was unaware of the gravity of what had happened:
Even Prothro had no idea how serious it was. As a cart carried him off the playing field for the final time, the Tide’s most electric player lifted his hands. He motioned the crowd to break its silence, allowing everybody, including himself, to believe that everything was going to be OK.
What followed was a months worth of surgery and then years of excruciating rehab.
He took his initial redshirt season in 2006 and a medical redshirt year in 2007. His last chance at playing for Alabama came in 2008. When the realization set in that he still had no chance of playing his senior season, he gave up his athletic scholarship.
Five years later to the day, Prothro, who currently works as a bank teller at a Tuscaloosa Regions bank location, says he’s still considering trying pro football.
He still sees a comeback as a possibility. He said it could be “a couple more years down the road,” and that he would need one more surgery to possibly eliminate setbacks he’s had in the past.
“I do think I can be as effective as I used to,” he said. “I may not be as fast, and I may not be as quick, but I still have that same mentality and that same heart that I had when I played.
“Whether it’s NFL, whether it’s European league, or whether it’s Canadian league, arena football, Arena2, I still feel like one day I’m going to be able to come back and be entertaining like I used to.”
Prothro’s also dabbled in coaching, working with a local semi-pro team. But, as Galloway reports, Prothro “wants to see where banking can take him while he waits for another coaching opportunity to open up.”
In a recent interview with Clay Travis of AOL FANHOUSE, Prothro said of that banking job:
“People don’t believe it’s me,” said Prothro, “I’ve got a name tag and a nameplate. They look down, then they look back up, and I’m like, ‘It’s me.’”
Saturday Florida will return to Tuscaloosa for the first time since Prothro’s injury, and the former Tide player will be there with bells on. From Travis:
Come Saturday, when Alabama takes the field, Prothro will be signing his book, “Catch and Hold,” as well as photographs and jerseys for Alabama fans. “They’ve been great,” he said, “the best fans in the world.” By kickoff, five years and one day after his football career ended, Prothro is not sure where he’ll be. “I’ve heard rumors they want me to carry out the game ball,” he said, “but nobody’s told me.”
“I hope it’s true. I’d like to do it.”
If he does, there won’t be a dry eye in the house.