Editor’s note: Kelle Sanders is an outside linebacker with the UAB football team.
April 10’s Green & Gold game marked the last time UAB football will use Legion Field Stadium.
Legion Field has had many legendary games played there, such as the Iron Bowl games between the University of Alabama and Auburn University that were played there for 53 years and the Magic City Classic game between Alabama State and Alabama A&M that has been played there for 83 years.
The spring game was an opportunity for us players to go out and showcase all the straining work we have been doing. Since we have 17 of last year’s 22 starters returning this spring has been competitive because everybody wants to be the next man up.
The returners are not going to just give up their starting role, but also our coaches are not just going to give out the starting spots: Everybody must earn it. Just like UAB had to earn the new stadium, we have to earn our spots and playing minutes.
Nothing is a handout. But while we’re moving on, I want to talk about what the stadium has meant in the past to the program, what it meant to me and my teammates and why we’re looking forward to the new home.
UAB made Legion our home back in 1991 and never looked back. Amassing a home winning streak in that stadium of 21 games from Oct. 11, 2014- Oct. 17,2020. Memorable moments in Legion such as the blocked kick against Louisiana Tech back in 2017, and the record setting night also in 2017 when UAB played Alabama A&M and attracted 45,000 fans. We also can’t forget about all the Conference-USA West division clinching games we’ve played there. It is safe to say Legion has been the stomping grounds for a growing UAB football program, and I am both happy, and torn that we are moving on from the old grey lady.
So this move will be a little bit of a bittersweet moment for us players because although we will miss Legion Field, we are all looking forward to playing in our new stadium, Protective Stadium. With the new stadium being smaller than Legion Field, it leaves more opportunities for sold out games. Also, it gives the fans more of an effect on the game. Protective Stadium is also said to be built without a bad seat, so I am sure the fans will love that.
Losing Legion is taking a piece of our identity as a program. Not just because we played there, and it was our home stadium but also because all the work we put into ourselves in January and February at Legion Field. As a team, we spent every Friday morning of our spring training (which begins in January and goes on for six-eight weeks) working at Legion Field, competing to prepare to defend our home. Countless hours of running stadiums early in the morning in below freezing weather.
All those memories we have created together. In the end this competition is only going to make us all better and prepare us for our upcoming season. We start the year out with a four-game away stretch taking on Jacksonville St. (who is currently in the FCS playoffs) in Montgomery, then we go and see Georgia out in Athens (an expected top 5 team in the nation), followed by a game at North Texas, then we wrap it up with a trip to Tulane, which is another solid football team. So, our first home game against Liberty will be much needed.
So, moving into Protective Stadium it feels like we must find another route to give us that mental and physical edge on our opponents. I am sure with Coach Clark at the reins we will always have a mental and physical edge on opponents, but it is safe to say that Legion Field definitely gave us an extra boost from that standpoint.
I say all of this to end on this note: Legion will be missed but never forgotten, and the UAB program appreciates everything and will cherish all the memories made inside that stadium.
Thank you, old grey lady.