Going Back To Bama

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Nick Fanuzzi leaves you little choice but to believe that his eerily calm demeanor will pay dividends whenever he takes the field Saturday afternoon against UAB at Legion Field in Birmingham. More than two years will have passed since the last, and only, time Fanuzzi took snaps in a Football Bowl Subdivision game. Coincidentally, that game was also in Alabama.

Not only will Fanuzzi make his Rice debut against the Blazers, he will return to the state where his college career unfolded. Some 57 miles from where he saw mop-up duty against Western Carolina on Sept. 1, 2007, Fanuzzi will begin the process of reviving his career, one that took a circuitous route after Fanuzzi opted to transfer from Alabama to Rice prior to last season.

"When I actually heard the schedule a while back, I was like 'Wow, the first game we're going back to the state of Alabama,'" said Fanuzzi, a third-year sophomore. "It was pretty ironic and funny, but at the same time I was excited about it. I get to go back there, and there are a lot of friends that have contacted me and said that they will be at the game. It's fun to be able to go back there and play a good Conference USA team and try to see if we can pull out a win."

A victory would be a perfect place to start for Fanuzzi, who essentially milked the clock when he made his lone appearance for the Crimson Tide as a true freshman. Fellow Texan Greg McElroy (Southlake Carroll High School) also participated that day, and when it became clear that neither would unseat John Parker Wilson heading into last season and that Fanuzzi was behind McElroy, a redshirt freshman in 2007, on the depth chart, Fanuzzi opted to leave. His return to his home state (Fanuzzi graduated from San Antonio Churchill High School) generated a shrug of apathy in Tuscaloosa, but on South Main Fanuzzi was welcomed as the potential heir to Chase Clement, a San Antonio native who rewrote the school record book.

Fanuzzi has work remaining if he is to solely succeed Clement for fifth-year senior John Thomas Shepherd, Clement's backup the past three seasons, played Fanuzzi to a draw in spring drills and fall camp. They will share reps against the Blazers after being named co-starters two weeks ago, a decision that added intrigue to the story that is Fanuzzi's homecoming. There might be a small contingent of Alabama fans who will cast a curious eye on Birmingham just to witness exactly how Fanuzzi is coming along, a likely scenario that Fanuzzi has undoubtedly contemplated. Given all that is on the line for Fanuzzi, primarily repetitions and redemption, one is left to wonder whether he will press to prove himself.

Fanuzzi doesn't anticipate losing hold of his emotions. He will greet the task coolly as always.

"I'm not too concerned about the emotional effects of going back there," Fanuzzi said. "All I'm thinking about during the game is the play at hand, each possession, my teammates, things of that nature. I'm not thinking about outside sources, just focusing on the task at hand." 

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