Carson Tinker injured in storms
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Alabama long-snapper Carson Tinker was injured in the storms that bombarded Tuscaloosa and other parts of the state, forcing Auburn's national championship football team to reschedule a trip to the White House. The weather also led to cancellations of high school and college sporting events.
Alabama coach Nick Saban said that Tinker was injured in the massive storms but is expected to be OK after being thrown 50 yards out of his house.
Crimson Tide spokesman Jeff Purinton said that Tinker was in stable condition at DCH Regional Medical Center. He didn't specify the nature of the injuries sustained by the junior from Murfreesboro, Tenn., but said Saban visited him before flying to New York for the NFL draft. Tinker reportedly suffered a concussion and broken arm.
Tinker's girlfriend, 22-year-old senior Ashley Harrison, was killed -- one of two Alabama student deaths confirmed as of Thursday afternoon. Alabama tight end Colin Peek said Harrison and Tinker were together when the storm hit.
"They both got thrown from the house," Peek said, according to the Birmingham News. "He didn't understand what happened. He had a concussion and got knocked out before he was taken away. She died instantly. Luckily she didn't suffer."
Tinker's was the only injury reported as of Thursday afternoon involving a University of Alabama athlete. The statewide death total -- which includes 36 people in Tuscaloosa, continues to rise.
The Alabama athletic department is applying to the NCAA for a "Katrina" waiver to allow it to help student-athletes who "lost everything" in the tornado Wednesday.
After Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005, the NCAA suspended its extra-benefit rules to allow schools such as Tulane that were affected by the storm to provide clothing, shelter and other necessities for their student-athletes. Associate athletic director Doug Walker said that Alabama has already begun to work with the NCAA and the Southeastern Conference offices so that similar aid may be given to the student-athletes victimized by the tornado.
"We have kids who are homeless," Walker said. "We have kids who lost their cars. We have kids who lost everything. There are a lot of different issues that come out of this."
The historic storm left a trail of destruction that came within a couple hundred yards of the Alabama athletic plant. Walker said that coaches and other personnel spent the day doing a head count of the university's 606 student-athletes. Walker said they are almost finished and have found only the one injury, to Tinker.Classes and final exams for the spring semester have been canceled and graduation postponed until August.
Auburn's White House trip was postponed ahead of President Barack Obama's visit to the state on Friday to view storm damage and meet with Gov. Robert Bentley and affected families.
There was no new date immediately set for the Tigers' White House visit.
All high school postseason events scheduled over the weekend were also postponed.
In Tuscaloosa, softball games, a charity golf tournament and a rowing event were canceled. Alabama canceled final exams and moved back graduation ceremonies.
Alabama's athletes and coaches appeared to escape mostly unscathed physically but were still dealing with the rubble and difficult emotions the storms left behind.
"I just got back from one of the hardest-hit areas trying to help a family that I know recover what they could of their belongings," men's golf coach Jay Seawell said. "I really could not believe what I saw. It was just utter devastation. I have never seen anything like it -- it was like a war zone. I hate to see our town go through something like this."
Basketball coach Anthony Grant said "it is overwhelming to see and try to comprehend the devastation this community has suffered."
Coleman Coliseum and Bryant-Denny Stadium apparently came through OK, but streets near campus were filled with the wreckage from demolished buildings.
"Everyone is still shocked at the destruction and loss of life," basketball player JaMychal Green said. "Those of us who were fortunate to be spared realize how blessed we are and pray for those who have lost loved ones and their homes. At this point all we can do is try to help someone and keep them in our thoughts and prayers."
Sometimes helping out just meant grilling burgers. That's what former Alabama football coach Gene Stallings was doing for emergency workers Thursday. He was in town for athletic director Mal Moore's charity golf tournament, which was canceled.
"It just didn't feel right to play golf," Stallings said.
Talladega Superspeedway pledged $100,000 to the relief effort.
A Facebook group formed by Auburn fans, Toomer's for Tuscaloosa, had drawn nearly 50,000 supporters by Thursday evening. Organizer Warren Tidwell, an Auburn resident, said he named the group in reference to "Tide for Toomer's," which Alabama supporters started to raise funds after the century-old oak trees at Auburn's Toomer's Corner were poisoned -- allegedly by Alabama fan Harvey Updyke Jr.
"While we are passionate about football, it's meaningless in times like these," Tidwell said. "We're all human beings."
Information from ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel and The Associated Press was used in this report.