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Alabama running back Jonathan Lowe played at Mississippi State before transferring.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Alabama running back Jonathan Lowe played at Mississippi State before transferring.

Facing his old team
With MSU up next, Tide's Lowe hopes he isn't 'bad luck' against Bulldogs

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

TUSCALOOSA — Last Nov. 4, as Jonathan Lowe sat in the stands at Bryant-Denny Stadium, watching Alabama's football team get beat 24-16 by Mississippi State, he felt helpless.

A kick-return specialist, Lowe had transferred from MSU before the 2006 season and was sitting out because of NCAA transfer rules. Watching that loss, Lowe could only wonder what had happened.

"I was thinking, 'Did I bring these guys bad luck?' I wasn't sure, but Mississippi State played a great game last year. They fought their tails off," said Lowe, a junior.

Lowe was an All-SEC kick returner as a freshman in 2004. His 73-yard punt return against Florida in 2004 was one of the highlights of a 38-31 State win that helped push then-Gators coach Ron Zook out the door.

But all wasn't right in Starkville for Lowe. During the 2005 season, according to Lowe, his parents soured on Mississippi State.

Lowe's father, Eddie, a former linebacker at Alabama during 1980-82, and his mother, Deborah, felt Jonathan needed a change

"My parents just didn't feel comfortable with me being there," Jonathan said.

"So they felt it was best for me to transfer."

Lowe said it was his mother who pushed the issue.

"She leaves the football up to me and my dad and my uncle (former Tide player Woodrow Lowe)," Lowe said. "But when things aren't going right, she had to step in and do her duty. That's exactly what she did. Her decision overrides anybody else."

Lowe received interest from three schools — Troy State, Jacksonville State and Alabama. For Lowe, the decision was mostly a no-brainer.

With his ties through his father and Woodrow, who played for the Crimson Tide during 1972-75, Jonathan grew up an Alabama fan.

During his initial recruitment coming out of high school, Georgia Tech, Wisconsin, Troy and Arkansas State were the only schools other than Mississippi State that pursued Lowe aggressively.

After the Crimson Tide's appearance in the Cotton Bowl in January 2006, Lowe had his first conversation with then-Alabama coach Mike Shula, and Lowe decided to head to Tuscaloosa.

He sat out 2006, and for much of this season, first-year coach Nick Saban has had him return kicks.

Something changed during the week leading up to the LSU game. His injured ankle — which he sprained before Alabama's game against Ole Miss on Oct. 13 and caused him to miss two games — started feeling better.

In addition, Lowe began practicing at running back — and not just with the scout team, which he did, impersonating Arkansas' Darren McFadden when the Tide prepared to face the Razorbacks. He also worked with the first-team offense.

And in his first major action playing running back in a game situation since 2005 at Mississippi State, Lowe was Alabama's leading rusher against the Tigers, gaining 31 yards on 10 carries.

"We've been trying to get him in a position where we could use him a little bit more," Saban said. "I think he did fine in the game, and, obviously, as he gets more experience he'll do better."

For many of his teammates, it's a wonder Lowe hadn't been used as a running back earlier in the season.

"It was a task for us going out there every practice and tackling him," Tide safety Rashad Johnson said. "And we all would say to one another, 'This guy, sooner or later, Coach is going to put him out there.' "

According to Lowe, he hasn't been telling his coaches any Mississippi State secrets. Having left after the 2005 season, he can't give any insight.

He said he still talks with Bulldogs defensive end Titus Brown. Lowe added that there were no hard feelings between him and Mississippi State coaching staff upon his departure. But that doesn't lessen his desire to defeat them.

"I wish those guys well in everything they do. Except now," Lowe said.

Jonathan Lowe at a glance

  • Graduated from Central High in Phenix City.

  • Son of former Alabama linebacker Eddie Lowe (1980-82) and nephew of Woodrow Lowe, also a former Tide linebacker (1972-75).

  • Ranks second on Alabama’s squad with 17.6 yards a kickoff return on the season.

  • Returned 17 punts for an 11.5-yard average and 19 kickoffs for an 18.1-yard average as a freshman with Mississippi State in 2004. As a junior in 2005, he returned eight punts for an average of 4.8 yards.

  • Transferred to Alabama after the 2005 season and sat out because of NCAA transfer rules.

    Josh Cooper

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