Alabama fan receives best seat in the house

Published 5:14 pm Friday, January 21, 2011

Rickey Smitherman (bottom) attends his first Alabama football game with his brother Winston Dale Lucas (left) and brother-in-law Doug Price (right).

Rickey Smitherman of Collins Chapel had one of the best seats in the house as he attended his first Alabama game last November at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Smitherman, who celebrated his 57th birthday on Thursday, Jan. 20, has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), in the fourth stage, and is awaiting a lung transplant.

His lungs work at 15 percent, he is on oxygen and he has to have breathing treatments every two to four hours.

With Smitherman being a “die-hard” Alabama fan, Doug Price, his brother-in-law and Auburn fan, thought it would be a good idea for him to experience an Alabama football game.

“I wanted him to experience it while he still could,” said Price. “It was something I wanted to do for him.”

In September, Price wrote a letter to Alabama’s athletic director Mal Moore explaining their situation, how big of a fan Smitherman is and how it would be a ‘once in a lifetime dream’ for Smitherman to attend a football game in Tuscaloosa.

“Smitherman counted down the days to kick-off for the last 200 days prior to the season starting,” said Price in the letter. “He’s such a huge fan that he called me one Tuesday morning at 6 a.m., woke me up, he just had to tell me the polls had Alabama favored over Florida by 9 points. He was just laughing he said, ‘I couldn’t wait to tell you.’”

Price received a response a couple of weeks later from Moore’s assistant, Kevin Almond, assistant athletic director, offering three skybox tickets to the Alabama vs. Georgia State game and dinner with the team or a chance to meet Moore and take a tour of the facility.

Smitherman, Price and Winston Dale Lucas, Smitherman’s younger brother, who is also an Alabama fan, enjoyed the Walk of Champions and their dinner and view of the game from the skybox.

“Dinner was great, everything was great, and we are very thankful,” said Price. “Rickey is limited to what he can do, but he had a blast.”

The group took pictures and recorded the football game as the Crimson Tide defeated the Panthers, 63-7.

“Kevin Almond was very helpful and accommodating, and they made everything really convenient for Rickey,” said Price. “Just being in the atmosphere and experiencing an Alabama football game first-hand was the big deal for him, and he enjoyed it to the fullest.”