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Justin Eboigbe grateful to be playing this postseason but also for lessons learned in neck rehab

1918632_10206777287683070_1367905321192383146_nby:Charlie Potter12/30/23


LOS ANGELES – This time last year, Justin Eboigbe was walking up and down the steps at the Caesars Superdome while the rest of his teammates prepared for the Sugar Bowl.

Eboigbe suffered a neck injury before Alabama’s Week 5 game at Arkansas and would miss the next nine games of the 2022 season. While three months removed from the injury, Eboigbe was still uncertain about what his future would hold, he said Saturday in California. 

One year later, Eboigbe is back on the field and playing a significant role on the Crimson Tide’s defense as it gets set to face No. 1 Michigan in the Rose Bowl on Monday, Jan. 1. The senior defensive lineman has been one of Alabama’s best players during its playoff run.

“It was a blessing to look at the year in review, how hard work pays off,” Eboigbe said. “Can’t do nothing without God, and just each and every day working, understanding there ain’t no tomorrow. Everything happens for a reason, and I just truly believe that. 

“I told myself each and every day I would come back from it, and I truly meant that. I truly believed it. Each and every day in practice, each and every game, I try to go out and prove myself right. And just understand that adversity that happened, it made me better. It made me mentally stronger. It made me physically better because I feel like I truly did come back better.”

Cleared to return to practice in the spring, Eboigbe has been productive all season long for the No. 4 Tide. He has tallied 60 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, four quarterback hurries and one pass breakup while playing in all 13 games. His seven sacks are tied for seventh place in the SEC, while he is currently in ninth place in the league in tackles for loss.

Alabama being in the College Football Playoff is special for the entire team, but for a guy who was unsure if he would ever play football again just one year ago, Eboigbe is not taking this trip to California for granted. It has allowed him to reflect on his long journey back.

“At that point, I was still doing like band workout. Nothing weight-wise,” Eboigbe said of last season. “I was just trying to run a little bit. It was like the first few weeks I was cleared to do band workouts and be able to run.

Alabama DL Justin Eboigbe
Justin Eboigbe (Courtesy of the Rose Bowl)

“I was just grateful to be able to do that but also just grateful to have the opportunity to be with the team because it was something that was missing during the time that I was out. So it was kind of like a little rehab in itself being around the team, being around the guys. So just grateful for that opportunity because it makes me think back on how far everything came.

“I understand that I always carry that with me because it’s something I can tap into in hard times, understanding I came (back) from that, where I was and taking care of the moment, taking advantage of the moment. Any opportunity that’s given, take full advantage of it because you never know what may happen.”

Given what he’s been through, Eboigbe is one of the most inspiring players on Alabama’s roster, and his teammates are to have him back, not only playing well but just in general.

“It means a lot, man,” defensive back Malachi Moore said. “We definitely missed Justin last year. I’m just happy for him and proud of him of the way he’s handled his situation and the way he’s came back stronger than ever, playing some great ball for us.”

As the Crimson Tide places its finishing touches on the plan for Michigan, Eboigbe wants to be an example for the rest of the team by the way he both works and the words he shares.

“You see me out there each and every day working each and every practice, I never take a day off,” Eboigbe said. “I’m not going to take reps off. If I can go, I’m going to go because at the end of the day, I want the trust and the belief of not only the coaches but the players that everything that I do, I earned it and it wasn’t just given to me.

“So if I’m playing a lot of plays, just know that Monday through Friday, I was taking all them reps for a reason. I don’t look at it like trying to get my body right for the game. I’m going to show each and everybody that I work during the week to get this opportunity.”

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