Tide's Arenas will remember slain friend Saturday
By Josh Cooper
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Javier Arenas pictures the No. 1 in his head.
Before Saturday's game on Vanderbilt's Dudley Field, Alabama's kick returner sees himself walking out to the solo digit encased in a black star on the 25-yard line on the Southeast side of the stadium. He kneels down, says a prayer, looks up at the sky and thinks of Kwane Doster.
A former Vanderbilt running back, Doster was shot and killed the morning of Dec. 26, 2004, in his hometown of Tampa, Fla. He and Arenas both went to Robinson High. While Doster was five years ahead of Arenas, his younger brother Jermaine, a Vanderbilt freshman and Arenas were friends.
They all lived in the same neighborhood, and all shared common interests through both football and lifestyle.
"I grew up with him and knew him all my life," Arenas said. "It was like a major disaster in the neighborhood when he was shot. It was like a category 5 hurricane came through."
At about 7 a.m. Dec. 26, Arenas was awoken by his stepfather, telling him that Kwane had been shot. At first Arenas shrugged off the news, thinking that it couldn't be true.
It was real, and suddenly it hit him that somebody he looked up to was gone.
According to Arenas, Kwane was the quiet type when he was in high school. But after he went to college, something loosened up in the 2002 SEC freshman of the year.
He came home with a smile on his face and would practice with his Robinson High teammates during vacations, which perplexed Arenas.
"Usually when you come back, you want to get away from football," Arenas said. "He wanted to play."
Kwane told Arenas that playing football in the Southeastern Conference made him love the game more. That he wanted to keep improving and getting better.
That rubbed off on Arenas, who saw how Kwane handled himself and realized that some day, he too wanted to make it to that level. Even with his spot cemented as Alabama's kick returner, Arenas remembers Kwane's smile as a way to get him through times of self-doubt.
"Usually when you are in college football, you question whether you want to continue playing because it is so much," Arenas said.
"He said Vanderbilt and the SEC was making it enjoyable to play. It made him want to play more."
Saturday will be Arenas' first visit to Dudley Field, where there will be reminders of his friend both on and off the playing surface.
Linebacker Jonathan Goff will wear a patch honoring Kwane, and there is a star with the No. 1 painted on Vanderbilt's "Star Walk" that heads into its locker room from Jess Neely Drive outside he south end zone.
But the No. 1 on the field has been long removed, forcing Arenas to change the location of his pre-game prayer.
He will find a private place, get down on his knees, say some words and go out onto the field and feel the presence of the No. 1 throughout the entire 60 minutes.
Said Arenas: "It's going to be an honor."
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