Out with the old, in with the new through Nick Vogel's eyes
It's all gone now. The dentist office of a football building. The adjoining shed turned locker room. The brick-and-mortar reminders of what UAB Football used to be have been reduced to a pile of rubble. All that's left to do is sweep up the debris and haul it away.
The timing is perfect with the Blazers preparing to kick off the 2019 season Thursday night at 7 against Alabama State at Legion Field. There's no looking back now, not even on the 2018 Conference USA Championship season.
Time to make new memories. But first ...
A lot of people have shared their thoughts since the demolition began, but few of them can speak with more authenticity on the subject than UAB kicker Nick Vogel. He spent the 2014 season, Bill Clark's first as head coach, as a redshirt; made a brief detour to Southern Miss after The Shutdown; then quickly made his way back to Birmingham when #TheReturn became official.
Vogel's one of the better kickers in the country. Last season he set program records for most points scored by a kicker (96) and most made PATs (51). He ranked second nationally in touchback percentage (88.8), an unheralded contribution to the team's dominant defensive season.
The redshirt senior was surprised to learn Friday morning that he'd been named a game captain for the season opener - along with Fitz Mofor and Lee Dufour - for the first time in any game in his career, he said. You might be surprised to hear Vogel's thoughts on the buildings that have been erased from the corner of 11th Street and 8th Avenue South but not from his mind.
"It's a surreal experience seeing that building go down. A lot of people are just, 'It's cool. A crane's crushing the building.' For me, you gotta remember, that was a brand-new locker room. When I came here, we were still in Bartow (Arena). We'd walk over to the field for practice. Big pain in the butt. Seeing that demolition, it's kind of like a new era for UAB. I remember being so excited we were getting a locker room that looked way nicer than what we had at Bartow. We've moved on to this (Football Operations Center) now, and it's even better, but I guess that's the thing that hits me. I've been here so long that literally they're mowing down my brand-new locker room that I got that I was so excited about.
"You know, they take you on recruiting visits, and they promise you a bunch of stuff. I was promised that locker room. Now they're getting promised a new stadium and all this other stuff. To me it's kind of surreal because I've been here so stinkin' long that they're tearing down what was promised to me. It's kind of come full circle, I guess.
"It's kind of cool to say (to the younger players), 'You weren't here when we were practicing on the beach volleyball court. We had that crappy locker room over there and we had to walk from Bartow (to practice)' and all that so it's kinda good to pull their ear about that. …
"I've been (back) in there a couple times. When we warm up that way, we kick it over the net sometimes and around the net when it doesn't go as planned. I've worked my way through that locker room. It's kinda weird. You get that same grimy smell it had. It's kinda cool going back to. Well, it was kinda cool going back to. It's gone now.
"There's a lot of memories that have come from that building. You talk about when they shut the program down, having that whole parking lot filled with fans all the way back to the baseball field … There's a lot of memories I have from that locker room so it was bittersweet seeing it actually fall down. But as I said, it's a new era so it's a refreshing thing to know the program's in the right direction."
It's refreshing to hear a college football player with that much ability and that much perspective.