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Former Alabama Football Player Remembers Deadly Tornado

CBN.com -“(It was me) my two roommates and Ashley, my girlfriend at the time. We were watching TV and saw there was tornado coming. So me and my roommate went outside on the front porch looking for it. And I remember the sky was this weird green color. My granddad called me and said, ‘you need to take shelter.’ So we all got in my roommate’s closet. And about 30 seconds later you could hear it.”

On April 27, 2011, an EF4 tornado packing winds of 170 mph ripped though Tuscaloosa. And Alabama long snapper Carson Tinker and his friends were caught in the middle of it. “We got in the closet and we could just hear the house being torn apart. I never thought it would throw the house across the street. But then I felt the house being pulled up. It picked the house up and I was thrown about 70 yards.”

The storm left most of Tuscaloosa in shambles. There were 65 fatalities and over a thousand injuries… including Carson and his two roommates Alan and Peyton. Ashley was missing. “I was knocked unconscious. I broke my wrist, had a severe concussion, and they think something wrapped around my leg and took a big chunk out of it. But yeah, I had scratches all over me. I was all torn up. Alan came over and he said I was laying face down. He thought I was dead. But he rolled me over. The next thing I remember is looking for Ashley.”

Carson and Peyton were taken to the hospital. They were expected to recover. But the next morning they received news concerning Ashley.  “They woke me up the next morning and told me that Ashley didn’t make it. Yeah, so that was definitely difficult for me.”

With the pain of losing Ashley still on his heart, Carson knew the road to mental and physical recovery would be long and hard. So he looked to the Lord for strength. “I went through a tornado. Everybody’s got storms in life. But that was my circumstance. And I had a vision. My vision was I wanted to play football. I remember laying in my hospital bed and I’m like, ‘all right, God, you know, where are we going to go from here? Because I know I’m not going to get out of this on my own.’ And Jeremiah 29:11, I’ve always heard that verse, ‘I got a plan for you, not to harm, but to prosper.’ And something that I’ve learned is that word ‘easy’ isn’t in that verse. It’s not an easy plan, but it’s a choice that I made that his is part of God’s plan. I made it every day.”

The journey back to the gridiron would be an uphill battle. After five days in the hospital, Carson began rehab. “It was a process. You always hear about, you know, Coach Saban always talks about the process. Well, my healing was a process. It was something I couldn’t look at going in. Like they wheeled me into physical therapy in a wheelchair. And I couldn’t go in there thinking like, ‘All right, I got to play football, you know, I got to be in football shape.’ I just tried to get a little bit better every day. As I said, some days I lost, some days I didn’t get better, but I woke up the next day with an ‘I will not be denied’ attitude.”

As Carson continued rehab, the town was rebuilding. But in Tuscaloosa, Alabama football is king, and the season was fast approaching. In the midst of disaster came a rallying cry- that came from Carson’s doctor. 

“He was the one that told me, ‘Earn it.’ It comes from Saving Private Ryan at the end of the movie where Tom Hanks’ character; he takes like 15 guys in to save Private Ryan. And he says to Tom Hanks, ‘how can I – how can I make up for this? Like you lost all your guys, like what can I do to repay you?’ And he said, ‘Earn it. Earn this.’ And that’s something he told me. He’s like ‘there’s a reason that you’re still here.’ So many people lost somebody that day. I wasn’t the only one to lose somebody. There was so many people lost. I had to earn it.”

On September 3, the team opened the season against Kent State and Carson was with them. From there the Crimson Tide rolled their way to a 11-1 and 2 consecutive BCS National Championships. Today Carson is engaged to Annie, and living his dream as the long snapper in the NFL for the Jacksonville Jaguars. In his book, "A Season to Remember," he shares his story with this message of hope.

“The main message for me was, you either live in vision or you live in circumstance. I wrote the book to help people. You know, like I said, my mantra is, some people ask for blessings, but I ask that I can be a blessing. You grow up reading stories in the Bible about people facing adversity, like Daniel in the Lion’s Den and stuff like that, but that’s when it became real. And I realize that Jesus is real. Those Bible characters were real people, and they leaned on the Lord just like I had to do.”

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