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Tough People Do


For 36 years, the Alabama gymnastics team has looked towards one leader.  Coach Sarah Patterson.  She is one of the last great decisions Coach Bryant ever made when he hired her.  She was a very green, recent graduate from Slippery Rock State College, but he took a chance on her.  I like to think he saw a little part of himself in her, and that was his key to know she’d be successful.  If we’re being honest, “successful” is a bit of an understatement here.

Last week, Coach Sarah resigned as head coach in this amazing letter to focus on her health.  It’s one of those things that you know will happen eventually, but you’re still never prepared enough when it does.  It took me until today to be able to watch her resignation announcement (below) because I couldn’t go there, yet, mentally.  She’s the kind of person you hope lives forever and coaches just as long.  But reality exists for a reason: to make us face our fears, to make us grow, to make us adapt to change.  And interestingly enough, Coach Sarah’s dedication, toughness, and inspiration that have helped her athletes and colleagues face fears, grow, and adapt over the years will now help all of us fans do the same.

Since the NCAA began awarding a national championship in women’s gymnastics in 1982, only 6 universities have ever won it.  Alabama is responsible for 6 of them including back to back championships in 2011 and 2012, the latter of which tied Coach Sarah with Coach Bryant for most national championships by an Alabama coach.  But that’s not what makes her a champion.  Certainly the rings and trophies are great and the long overdue champions plaza named for her is a good start to honor her legacy, but it’s the impact she’s had on the athletes she coached that makes her a champion.


The best kind of coaches do not simply coach you to win the competition.  The very best coaches teach you to win the game of life.  They stress the importance of your education in the classroom as evidenced by entire teams being named Academic All-Americans, many of them with 4.0 GPAs.  They instill a compassion for giving back to those less fortunate.  They provide an environment ripe with opportunities to grow physically, mentally, and spiritually.  They prepare you to face every challenge in life head on.  They don’t make you a better athlete.  They make you a better person.  And Coach Sarah is the very definition of the best kind of coach.  To that end, I am certain our new head coach, Dana Duckworth, will be phenomenal in the role, and that certainty is for only one reason.  She is a Coach Sarah athlete.  When you learn from the best, you know how to teach like the best.

For 36 years, Coach Sarah gave us everything she had every day.  She exemplified what it means to be a member of the Alabama Family in every thing she did.  She beat the odds by building one of the premiere college gymnastics programs in the country.  She fought for our girls every step of the way and taught them to be leaders in their jobs, their communities, and their families.  She has improved the world in ways that can’t be quantified.  I will miss seeing her, dressed to the nines, excitedly cheering on our girls, but the great thing about legends is that their heart and spirit remain with the program even after they depart.

For now though, she remains a member of the Athletic Department and takes on an exciting role with the NCAA Gymnastics Committee while she faces this new set of challenges with her health.  Coach Sarah has never shied away from the trials she’s faced throughout her career, and I expect this to be no different nor do I expect the outcome to be anything other than a triumph.  Tough times don’t last.  Tough people do, and Coach Sarah is tough people.

Roll Tide, Coach Sarah!  

Roll GymTide, Roll!


Here’s Johnny


Dear Johnny,

Can we call you Johnny?  You’re the most important person in college football now, so we weren’t sure if we were still on a first name basis with one of the starting quarterbacks of this year’s Cotton Bowl or if we needed to show reverence by calling you Mr. Manziel.  Anyway, we just wanted to congratulate you on winning the 2012 Heisman Trophy.  It’s always a remarkable achievement, but for you to win it as a redshirt freshman is even more impressive.

It was a pleasure playing against you this season, and we hope you found us to be welcoming and accommodating during your visit to our house. Now, we don’t want to dampen your glory by bringing up paperwork, but we are looking forward to receiving your “thank you” note to add to our collection.  No rush, really.  We’re still waiting for one from Cam Newton, after all.  We hear he’s too busy counting his money from the bag man to pick up a pen.  We’re not even sure he can count that high, so it could be a while.  And you know, we even thought we might get one from Peyton Manning.  Had the frame all ready for it, but that Charles Woodson had to horn in and ruin everything.  We’re still a little bitter about that one, but we digress.

We look forward to hearing from you, and congratulations, again.


The Alabama Defense

P.S. We hope you will remember our hospitality when we come visit you next year in College Station.  We know Coach Saban will.  Roll Tide!

Finished It

It’s almost surreal: that feeling when you can’t believe what just happened, but really you can.  I didn’t make it.  I made it to midnight and then I couldn’t keep my eyes open.  The first pitch took place three hours after the original start time for game 3 of the Women’s College World Series Championship Finals.  It was winner take all.  Just one game to decide it.  And thanks to ESPN, I’ve seen the full game twice with no plans to delete it from my DVR anytime soon. But that’s not where I want to begin.  Let’s step back.  Let’s step back to mid-April.

In April, the Alabama Gymnastics team won its second straight National Championship and sixth overall.  We Alabama alums and fans were mesmerized.  Not only had our football team delivered its second BCS National Championship in three years in January, but now our gymnastics team was bringing home a little hardware of their own.  We rejoiced.  We cheered.  We cried.  We even sat stunned.  It had been a rough year for all of us who love Tuscaloosa and The University of Alabama, and those two national championships only a few months apart was somewhat strangely healing as if to say, “it’s going to be okay.”  I don’t like to put a lot of pressure or emphasis on natural disasters parlaying anything or anyone into success because you still have to go out and play.  But even if a devastating monster of a tornado wasn’t a catalyst for the success, that success has nevertheless been a catalyst for helping us move forward.

It was remarkable.  No one school is supposed to have this much success so close together, so I think a lot of us took what we were given and said, “Awesome job ladies and gentlemen.  Thank you for representing our school so well. We are so proud.”  I’m not sure any of us EXPECTED what happened next no matter how much we believe in every single one of our student athletes.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago on the Friday before Memorial Day.  The Alabama Women’s Golf Team was playing for their first ever national championship.  Surely, we all must have thought, this isn’t possible.  How in the world could we possibly win THREE national championships in a span of nearly 5 months.  So with every hole that didn’t go our way, we thought, “okay, we’re not gonna do it, but we’ve made a great effort.”  And with every hole that did go our way, we thought, “holy cow this might actually happen.”  And then that final hole happened and suddenly the women’s golf team was bringing home a little hardware of their own as well.  Surely this was the end of our run, as great of a run as it was, this had to be the end of it.  But wait…there’s more.

A little over a week later, the MEN’S golf team was playing for that national championship against Texas.  This made it four different Alabama teams playing in the last game/meet/match of the season for a chance to win the national championship.  With different sports, you might see your school end up in post season play, but actually being in a position to win the national championship FOUR times in five months.  Come on, that’s just silly, but it happened.  In this case, we fell literally one hole short of winning our fourth national championship in the calendar year of 2012, but being able to say that we only came up one hole short of that championship felt pretty good.  But wait…there’s more.

Doubt creeps in at this point.  You know you’ve got a championship caliber softball team, but after all that, you start to wonder if all the success of the other teams will be the breaking point…the downfall.  That’s when you stop yourself.  That’s when you remember, you’re not Jackie Traina.  You’re not Patrick Murphy.  You’re not any one of those ladies on that team who is fighting to bring home a championship to their school no matter what has happened in the previous five months or even the previous five minutes.  That’s when you realize this is their opportunity and no doubt that is running through your head matters.  So, as an alum/fan you buck up and you scream from your couch and you might give certain opponents dirty looks through the TV.  But, bottom line, you support every one of them to the bitter or beautiful end.

That’s when the stats start coming into play.  You remember that this is a team that never lost to an opponent more than once all season, which means that they never dropped a series.  All totaled, they only lost eight games all season (including this championship series).  This is a team that has responded every time…EVERY TIME…their backs were against the wall.  This is the team that sells out their stadium more often than the baseball team sells out theirs, which granted may say more about our baseball team than I’d like to admit.  This is a group of seniors who have banged on and chipped away at that door of the Women’s College World Series so much that they refused to be denied this time.  They had rubber bracelets made that simply said “Finish It,” and when you heard that, it gave a twinge of belief that even in the face of adversity in the middle of game 3 down 3-0 to the #4 team in the nation this team would respond…this team would finish it.  You don’t quit just because you’ve had two home runs resulting in three runs hit against you in the first three innings of the championship game.  You walk back out to that pitchers circle and you fight.  That’s what Jackie Traina did: the woman who threw every single pitch for the Crimson Tide in these WCWS games.  Not once did she appear beaten.  Not once did she say I can’t do it.  All she did was fight.  For three games, she had battled against Oklahoma’s pitcher Rickett’s, a battle for the ages because both of those ladies are remarkably talented.  And with two outs in the top of the seventh inning, OU’s Rickett’s stepped to the plate in an attempt to be a hero for her team that was down 5-4 while Traina was fighting to keep that score as it was.  In that moment, every practice, every work out, every bit of prep work Jackie had done prior to resulted in a strike out and a national championship: the first ever for Alabama and for the SEC.

It struck me as this most recent national championship makes its way back to Tuscaloosa today that we are 16 days shy of the 40th anniversary of the passing of the Title IX legislation: a piece of legislation that virtually made this opportunity possible.  You see, Alabama may have won four of the five national championships it played for in the first 6 months of 2012, but three of those were women’s national championships.  I cried when I first read the words “Alabama softball wins its first national championship” not because I am so happy for and proud of them, though I am, but because in a town at a university that has 14 national titles in football, it’s the women who have now won three national championships in three different sports in just the last two months.  In a town at a university where football is king, it’s the women who are bringing home the hardware, and I, for one, can’t think of a better way to celebrate the anniversary of Title IX.

Roll Tide, Ladies!  Thank you for reminding me that nothing is ever over until it is finished.

New Era Begins

Is this the road to #15 for my beloved Alabama Crimson Tide? At the very least, we may be looking at the 7th consecutive for the SEC (or 9th all time in the BCS era).  As much as it hurts my heart to say at the beginning of this new era for the SEC, welcome to the party Texas A&M and Missouri.  Don’t screw it up.  Make us proud.

2012 NFL Draft In Review

This was probably one of the more enjoyable drafts for me.  I tend towards the “draft who you need” side of things rather than drafting someone just because someone believes he deserves to be drafted at a certain position.  If you don’t need a QB, don’t draft one and don’t be pressured into drafting a guy just because someone tells you he should go #1 or even in the 1st round.  It was a remarkable showing for the SEC which led all conferences with 42 players selected and the only conference to have a player selected from every single school.  Alabama led all SEC schools (and all schools for that matter) with 8 players selected.  I did a bit of math on this.  253 players were selected over the 3 day draft.  The SEC accounted for 16.6% of those players.  Alabama accounted for 3.2% of those players, and further, Alabama accounted for 19% of the SEC players selected.  I’m not usually the first person to chant SEC! SEC! SEC!, but I gotta admit, that’s pretty impressive.

Here’s how the Indianapolis Colts handled things:

Rnd. Pick # NFL team Player Pos. College Conf.
1 1 Indianapolis Colts Andrew Luck QB Stanford Pac-12
2 34 Indianapolis Colts Coby Fleener TE Stanford Pac-12
3 64 Indianapolis Colts Dwayne Allen TE Clemson ACC
3 92 Indianapolis Colts T. Y. Hilton WR Florida International Sun Belt
5 136 Indianapolis Colts Josh Chapman DT Alabama SEC
5 170 Indianapolis Colts Vick Ballard RB Mississippi State SEC
6 206 Indianapolis Colts LaVon Brazill WR Ohio MAC
7 208 Indianapolis Colts Justin Anderson G Georgia SEC
7 214 Indianapolis Colts Tim Fugger LB Vanderbilt SEC
7 253 Indianapolis Colts Chandler Harnish QB Northern Illinois MAC


If you haven’t seen it, check out the video reaction from Mr. Irrelevant.


Here’s how the Denver Broncos handled things:

Rnd. Pick # NFL team Player Pos. College Conf.
2 36 Denver Broncos Derek Wolfe DT Cincinnati Big East
2 57 Denver Broncos Brock Osweiler QB Arizona State Pac-12
3 67 Denver Broncos Ronnie Hillman RB San Diego State MWC
4 101 Denver Broncos Omar Bolden CB Arizona State Pac-12
4 108 Denver Broncos Philip Blake C Baylor Big 12
5 137 Denver Broncos Malik Jackson DE Tennessee SEC
6 188 Denver Broncos Danny Trevathan LB Kentucky SEC


Here’s the list of Alabama players drafted:

Rnd. Pick # NFL team Player Pos. College Conf.
1 3 Cleveland Browns Trent Richardson RB Alabama SEC
1 7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mark Barron S Alabama SEC
1 17 Cincinnati Bengals Dre Kirkpatrick CB Alabama SEC
1 25 New England Patriots Dont’a Hightower LB Alabama SEC
2 35 Baltimore Ravens Courtney Upshaw LB Alabama SEC
5 136 Indianapolis Colts Josh Chapman DT Alabama SEC
5 146 Kansas City Chiefs DeQuan Menzie CB Alabama SEC
7 247 Cleveland Browns Brad Smelley TE Alabama SEC


And, finally, here’s how the entire SEC faired:

Rnd. Pick # NFL team Player Pos. College Conf.
1 3 Cleveland Browns Trent Richardson RB Alabama SEC
1 6 Dallas Cowboys Morris Claiborne CB LSU SEC
1 7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mark Barron S Alabama SEC
1 10 Buffalo Bills Stephon Gilmore CB South Carolina SEC
1 12 Philadelphia Eagles Fletcher Cox DT Mississippi State SEC
1 14 St. Louis Rams Michael Brockers DT LSU SEC
1 17 Cincinnati Bengals Dre Kirkpatrick CB Alabama SEC
1 18 San Diego Chargers Melvin Ingram OLB South Carolina SEC
1 25 New England Patriots Dont’a Hightower LB Alabama SEC
2 35 Baltimore Ravens Courtney Upshaw LB Alabama SEC
2 41 Buffalo Bills Cordy Glenn G Georgia SEC
2 45 Chicago Bears Alshon Jeffery WR South Carolina SEC
2 62 Green Bay Packers Casey Hayward CB Vanderbilt SEC
2 63 New York Giants Rueben Randle WR LSU SEC
3 73 San Diego Chargers Brandon Taylor S LSU SEC
3 90 New England Patriots Jake Bequette DE Arkansas SEC
4 99 Houston Texans Ben Jones C Georgia SEC
4 104 Carolina Panthers Joe Adams WR Arkansas SEC
4 112 Arizona Cardinals Bobby Massie OT Ole Miss SEC
4 114 Seattle Seahawks Jaye Howard DT Florida SEC
4 116 Cincinnati Bengals Orson Charles TE Georgia SEC
4 118 Minnesota Vikings Jarius Wright WR Arkansas SEC
4 123 Philadelphia Eagles Brandon Boykin CB Georgia SEC
4 124 Buffalo Bills Ron Brooks CB LSU SEC
4 131 New York Giants Brandon Mosley OT Auburn SEC
4 134 Minnesota Vikings Greg Childs WR Arkansas SEC
5 136 Indianapolis Colts Josh Chapman DT Alabama SEC
5 137 Denver Broncos Malik Jackson DE Tennessee SEC
5 146 Kansas City Chiefs DeQuan Menzie CB Alabama SEC
5 150 St. Louis Rams Rokevious Watkins G South Carolina SEC
5 159 Pittsburgh Steelers Chris Rainey RB Florida SEC
5 170 Indianapolis Colts Vick Ballard RB Mississippi State SEC
6 175 Minnesota Vikings Blair Walsh K Georgia SEC
6 181 Seattle Seahawks Winston Guy S Kentucky SEC
6 188 Denver Broncos Danny Trevathan LB Kentucky SEC
6 192 Atlanta Falcons Charles Mitchell S Mississippi State SEC
7 208 Indianapolis Colts Justin Anderson G Georgia SEC
7 214 Indianapolis Colts Tim Fugger LB Vanderbilt SEC
7 236 Baltimore Ravens DeAngelo Tyson DT Georgia SEC
7 242 New York Jets Antonio Allen S South Carolina SEC
7 247 Cleveland Browns Brad Smelley TE Alabama SEC
7 249 Atlanta Falcons Travian Robertson DT South Carolina SEC

Sweet Home Alabama

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Leave the Pieces

The basement of my house is unofficially called “The Bama Room.”  Its walls are covered in paintings and posters and pictures of The University of Alabama and its various sports and campus landmarks. In a small 8×10 space on one wall is a framed quote with no clear indication that it is Alabama related, but when I read the quote, all I see has everything to do with Alabama.

“You never really leave a place you love. Part of it you take with you leaving a part of you behind.”

On Wednesday night as I was somewhere over the Midwest in an airplane returning from a short business trip to Chicago, an F-5 tornado ripped through the pieces of myself I left behind in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on a mild August day in 2001.  A tornado that measured nearly a mile wide cut a track of almost six miles through the center of town on one of the main roads.  The storm was so strong that debris was picked up in Tuscaloosa and deposited some 60 miles northeast in Birmingham and even as far north as Knoxville, TN. The destruction was so great that piles of rubble replaced some of my favorite places beyond the point of recognition. Pictures were posted, but even though I can drive Tuscaloosa in my sleep, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out where the picture was taken. You can see before and after pictures here and here. Entire housing and apartment complexes have been wiped off the face of the earth.  As of today the death toll in Tuscaloosa is 39, and while that may look like a small number when you consider how tremendous this storm was, to me, 39 is 39 too many.

I’ve heard of other college towns or towns where a major university is located. I’ve heard in most of those places that the locals don’t like the college students. Sort of a “get off my lawn you snot-nosed kids” kind of attitude. But not in Tuscaloosa. Tuscaloosa embraces the students and the students embrace the locals. Plenty of students go to college at Alabama and like me, move away to start their careers. But so many students stay in Tuscaloosa or nearby in Birmingham, Huntsville, Montgomery, and Mobile to begin their careers. It’s a place you never want to be very far from geographically or in your heart.  It’s where so many of us feel centered and at home. Though it sounds far-fetched, every day of my life for almost the last 10 years, I wake up and wish I were there. Thursday morning that feeling was stronger than it ever has been.

You see I can deal with the bricks and mortar being gone. Those things can be replaced.  It’s not the fact that the Krispy Kreme or the Milo’s or the Big Lots is gone. It’s that THAT Krispy Kreme and THAT Milo’s and THAT Big Lots is gone.  Those places where I created memories with my friends. The Krispy Kreme where we knew the schedule of when the HOT NOW sign would be lit. You haven’t lived until you’ve loaded up the car at 2 am during finals week to drive to the Krispy Kreme for a study break and snack, and as cliché as it may be, there always seemed to be a Tuscaloosa Police Department cruiser parked outside. I can’t for the life of me remember what restaurant was there before Milo’s, but I can remember when we found out we were getting one. Milo’s sells hamburgers…in Alabama…and their secret sauce is still a mystery to me but oh so delicious on the burgers and fries. And until Tuscaloosa got a Milo’s, the closest one was in Birmingham. The pieces of my heart and my memories now lie in the piles of rubble of these places.

Over the last few days, I have watched from many miles away as members of the Alabama Family have come together and stepped up to save Tuscaloosa. Every new story I hear brings tears to my eyes like Houston Texans and former Alabama football player DeMeco Ryans showing up this afternoon with a truck load of every kind of supply that has been requested or newly drafted former Alabama football player James Carpenter calling the athletic department the morning after he was selected in the 1st round not to talk about the draft but simply to ask “what can I do?” or men’s basketball head coach Anthony Grant climbing on the roof of a house that was gutted yet still standing to help empty the attic of the resident’s personal belongings or the baseball team canceling practice on Thursday so they could help the relief efforts.

But, the ones that make me cry the most are the outpouring of support: physically, monetarily, and supply donations from people who any other day of the year would have no reason to acknowledge Tuscaloosa. The Yankees organization gave $500k to the relief efforts. Penn State football set up a fund for their fans to donate to. A guy drove from Wyoming in his utility truck to help with the downed power lines.  Auburn University has even set up collection sites all over Auburn and is personally driving the donations of supplies to Tuscaloosa this weekend. And nearly every university in the Southeastern Conference as well as the other universities in the state of Alabama are lending a hand as well.

The University itself was spared any structural damage but lost electricity until late Friday. Now though, it can fill in as shelter locations and volunteer support and organization. In short, it can give back to the city that has given it so much over the years. Some of the greatest people God ever put on this earth live in Tuscaloosa, AL, and they’re hurting and fighting and stunned and they need our help. This is a comprehensive list of ways to help. And this is a list of the volunteer efforts and donation needs. And pray…prayers are always welcome. God is healing Tuscaloosa.

The city of Tuscaloosa became a place I call home almost 15 years ago. Wednesday night I slept in an Alabama sweatshirt just to feel some tiny bit of closeness to that home. It has given me so much over the years, and I hope and pray that in the days, weeks, months, and years to come I can give back at least a fraction of that because some how, some way, we will put the pieces of our collective hearts and lives back together, and Tuscaloosa will grow stronger because of this. Roll Tide, T-Town, Roll Tide!

Mouth Wash

Oh there you are…the road map to getting that bad taste out of our mouths. PDF version here.


Tomorrow at 7pm ET, Alabama will take the field to begin the 2010 football season, and I, per usual, will be a nervous wreck.  Last year was remarkable. If you had asked me this time a year ago how I thought the season would turn out, I would have said, “if we make it to the SEC championship game, we have a better shot at beating Florida than we did the year before.” Not one utterance of the words National Championship would have come out of my mouth.  No mention of going undefeated would have crossed my lips.  And certainly Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram wasn’t even a passing thought.  But that was last year.  This is this year.

I have a lot of friends who are of the die hard Alabama fan variety, and when I say that I mean those people who believe we’re going to win the national championship every year.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Every team needs fans like that.  I’m of the more realistic fan type.  Some people think that makes me pessimistic, but I call it cautiously optimistic.  Do I want to win every game we play? ABSOLUTELY.  Do I believe if they do their jobs 100% on every play for 60 minutes that we can win the game? FOR SURE.  Do I think that’s also true about a lot of teams in the country? YOU BET.  It is incredibly hard to win a national championship, and in my opinion, it’s even harder to win one when navigating through the SEC. Last year proved that to me.  I have friends who will tell you that until the last second ticked off that championship game, I still didn’t think we were going to win despite what the scoreboard said.

It bothers me probably a little more than it should when people talk about repeating or defending because that’s a lot of pressure on a bunch of kids who had ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with the 2009 championship.  I realize we have a lot of returning players from the championship team, but again, winning it all is INCREDIBLY HARD.  I think it is disrespectful and unfair to not allow the players on this year’s team to chart their own path, to set their own goals, and to find their own identity without being compared to what happened last year.  Every person who has attended the University of Alabama is a member of the Family.  Likewise, every person who has suited up in a crimson uniform is a part of our athletic history and have earned their place in the books.  So, too, has this 2010 team.

Don’t get me wrong, I would wholeheartedly welcome a national championship for the 2010 season.  In fact, I’d welcome a national championship every year just like those die hard fans, but make no mistake, if the 2010 team were to win the national championship, it will be their national championship and will have NOTHING to do with the 2009 team’s national championship.

With that said, Welcome to Alabama Football 2010.  And if you’re an opponent of ours this season, may God have mercy on your soul.


Finding Home

I started college at THE University of Alabama 14 years ago this week.  Time sure flies!  The freshman who are starting college this semester (Today, in fact) hadn’t even started kindergarten when I was starting college.   To this day, choosing to go to Alabama is the single best decision I have ever made in my life.  I know with complete certainty I would not be the person I am today without my experiences in college, and I also firmly believe that if I’d gone to any other college, my experience would not have been the same.  Don’t get me wrong.  My college career wasn’t always roses and sunshine.  It came with its share of trials.  About two weeks into my freshman year, I called my parents and told them I wanted to come home.  I was 10 hours away from them, and it was the first time I’d been that far away from home for any length of time.  It was like I was starting a whole new life, and I didn’t really know how to do that.  No one from my high school went to Alabama with me.  A lot of them went to FSU or Florida.  But I’ve come to realize that in working through those trials and making it to the other side stronger and wiser because of it is what makes me know Alabama and I were meant to be.

During my five years at Alabama, I met some of the greatest people God has put on this earth, in my opinion.  These people made me believe in friendship, again.  They’re the kind of people you can call at 3am in the morning and they’ll answer.  They’re family.  I miss them and Alabama every day of my life.  In the end, I’m thankful that my parents wouldn’t let me come home because by making me stay, I found “home.”