Football fans! Don’t get depressed about your favorite college team not breaking out their helmets and pads for the next few months. You can get all of your gridiron wishes fulfilled on Thursday, May 25, when the 23rd annual L’Arche Football Preview kicks off at The Mitchell Center on the campus of the University of South Alabama.

Serving as featured speakers this year will be Greg Byrne and Jay Jacobs, athletic directors at the University of Alabama and Auburn University, respectively.

Also confirmed for the event are Joey Jones, University of South Alabama head coach; Tim Brewster, Florida State University tight end coach/recruiting coordinator; Dave Aranda, Louisiana State University defensive coordinator; Phil Savage, Reese’s Senior Bowl executive director; Charles Davis, FOX Sports/NFL Network analyst; Taylor Zarzour, SiriusXM College Sports Nation host; and WNSP’s Randy Kennedy.

“L’Arche Mobile is excited about this year’s lineup of guest speakers,” said Marty O’Malley, director of L’Arche Mobile. “We appreciate everyone taking the time to share their insights into college football.”

Jacobs, who has been at Auburn 14 years, has seen the school claim a dozen national championships under his watch, including a school-record four titles in 2005-06. Byrne took over the Crimson Tide program this year after serving as athletic director at the University of Arizona for seven years.

Doors open to The Mitchell Center at 5:30 p.m. for sponsors and 6 p.m. for the general public. The evening will include a silent auction, dinner and the program of speakers. Tickets cost $50 per person or $400 for a table. The dinner is co-sponsored by DEX Imaging and Reese’s Senior Bowl.

“We look forward to another fantastic football evening with our customers, guests and friends all coming together for a great cause,” said Bobby Gwin, president of DEX Imaging of Alabama.

“Our audience will be entertained and well-informed for the upcoming season by the end of the night,” Savage said.

The Football Preview is a major fundraiser for L’Arche Mobile, a Christian community where people with and without intellectual disabilities share life together in a permanent, family-like environment. L’Arche is an international federation of communities.

‘L’Arche’ is French for “the ark,” a meaningful place of refuge. L’Arche Mobile was established in 1974 and has grown to include 23 people with special needs and 55 Team Members. For more information about L’Arche Mobile, please visit www.larchemobile.org.

Tennis legend has local roots
The Intercollegiate Tennis Association has announced its 2017 Men’s Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame induction class. One name on the list was first exposed to the sport in Mobile.

Nick Bollettieri is being recognized in the “contributor” category. He will join players James Blake (Harvard University) and Matias Boeker (University of Georgia) and coaches Francis Baxter (University of Central Oklahoma) and Bill Otta (Saddlebrook College) on Thursday, May 25, during the NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Championships at the University of Georgia.

“We are very happy Nick Bollettieri has been recognized with this tremendous honor,” said Jim Hall, director of athletics at Spring Hill College. “Nick has obviously had a storied career and this recognition of his impact within the tennis world is well deserved. We are quite proud of Nick and his accomplishments, just as we are of all our graduates who are out in the world making a difference.”

Bollettieri graduated from Spring Hill in 1953 with a degree in philosophy. The Badgers inducted him to their athletic hall of fame in 1994, and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame named him to its ranks in 2009.

While growing up in Pelham, New York, Bollettieri played football, not tennis.

“In my junior year at Spring Hill College in Mobile, my uncle, who was a very good tennis player, took us to a club to play,” he recalled in an interview. “Later, I made the tennis team at Spring Hill.”

After serving in the U.S. Army, Bollettieri enrolled at the University of Miami Law School before eventually quitting to become a tennis coach. In 1978, he founded the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida. It was the first full-time sports academy in the world to combine intense training on the court with a custom-designed academic curriculum in a boarding-school environment.

This method helped him to coach 10 top-ranked players in the world and to help thousands of other students. Some of his most famous players include Andre Agassi, Monica Seles, Jim Courier, Kei Nishikori, Anna Kournikova, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.

In 1987, he joined forces with IMG to turn his tennis camp into a multi-sport training facility, now known as IMG Academies. Located on a 300-plus acre campus in Bradenton, Florida, IMG Academies trains more 13,000 junior, collegiate, adult and professional athletes annually in numerous sports from more than 80 countries.

Fly like an Eagle
Honors don’t always come on an athletic field. Sometimes they come as a result of hard work and good deeds. That was certainly the case for three members of Boy Scouts of America Troop 147 who have been recognized as Eagle Scouts: Benjamin Smith, son of Amy and Mike Smith and a senior at McGill-Toolen Catholic High School; Robert Anderson, son of Lynn and Stanley Anderson and a senior at St. Stanislaus High School; and Daniel Lane, son of Tracy and Dan Lane and a senior at St. Paul’s Episcopal High School.

To earn the rank of Eagle, the Scout must meet several requirements, including achieving a specific number of merit badges, holding leadership positions, participating in outdoor activities, completing overnight campouts with the unit and attending Scout camps. Each candidate must also complete a service project that helps a charitable organization. Only 4 percent of boys entering the Scouts achieve the rank.

The ceremony took place at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Troop 147, and its predecessor Troop 17, have awarded the Eagle Scout rank to 100 boys since the mid-1930s.