Douglas trades Rocky Top for Roll Tide

December, 17, 2010
12/17/10
7:00
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Aaron Douglas started his college career as a Freshman All-America offensive tackle at Tennessee.

After a stopover at Arizona Western College, he'll end his career playing for one of the Vols' fiercest rivals -- Alabama.

Douglas, one of the top junior college offensive line prospects in the country, signed his scholarship papers with the Crimson Tide on Thursday after also entertaining offers from Arkansas, Oregon and Southern California. He'll enroll in school in January and be able to go through spring practice.

[+] EnlargeAaron Douglas
Skip Williams/Icon SMIFormer Tennessee offensive lineman Aaron Douglas (78) is heading to Alabama.
Nick Saban doesn't usually sign a lot of junior college players, but thinks Douglas has a chance to come in and win the left tackle job. The Crimson Tide had success with another former junior college player at that position the past two seasons. Senior James Carpenter will start his 27th consecutive game at left tackle in the Capital One Bowl.

Douglas' signing with Alabama won't be a popular decision with Tennessee fans. He was the Vols' most promising offensive lineman when Derek Dooley took over for Lane Kiffin following the 2009 season. What's more, he was a Tennessee legacy. Both of his parents were former Tennessee athletes. His father, David, was an offensive lineman on the Vols' 1985 SEC championship team and later played in the NFL. His mother, Karla Horton Douglas, was the starting center on the Lady Vols' 1987 national championship basketball team.

Douglas, despite coming to Tennessee as a tight end, played well as a freshman, but was never really happy. He was also battling depression and asked Dooley for a release, saying he wanted to get away.

Dooley, saying Douglas never gave him a chance, would only grant Douglas a release if he would agree to go somewhere that was at least eight hours away from Knoxville.

As part of his request for a release, Douglas told Dooley he wouldn't transfer to any other SEC school, any school in the state of Tennessee or any school on the Vols' schedule for the duration of his career. Still, Dooley balked.

So Douglas decided to go the junior college route, which freed him up to go anywhere he wanted after a year.

And here he is at Alabama.

He understands that some Tennessee fans will see this as his trying to get back at Dooley and the Vols. His parents, who still live in the Knoxville area, are also prepared for the fallout.

"This had nothing to do with Tennessee," David Douglas said. "We're always going to be Tennessee fans and want them to win. There was no vengefulness against Tennessee. In fact, Aaron struggled for the first month or two when he knew Alabama was going to be a factor. He still keeps in touch with a lot of those guys. They're his buddies, so there are no hard feelings.

"This is just the best thing for his life and his livelihood, to get a new start. He made this decision with no input from us. I know some people aren't going to like it. That's their problem. What's important to us as parents is that he's happy, and he is."

Chris Low | email

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