JACKSONVILLE – Carson Tinker's road to the NFL has different curves than most.
He walked on to the Alabama football team as a long snapper, survived an EF-4 tornado, overcame physical, emotional and psychological loss and pain, earned a scholarship, won two National Championships, signed as an undrafted free agent with the Jaguars and made an NFL active roster and authored a book.
That's a pretty full life, and Tinker is only 24 years old.
"This is part of my vision," Tinker, the Jaguars' second-year long snapper, said during the Jacksonville Jaguars Booster Club annual business meeting Tuesday night in the West Touchdown Club at EverBank Field.
"When I was in laying the hospital bed and couldn't walk, I wanted to be helping people, inspiring people, challenging people, encouraging people, motivating people."
Tinker survived the EF-4 tornado that struck Tuscaloosa, Alabama on April 27, 2011. The storm claimed over 50 lives in Tuscaloosa alone, including six University of Alabama students.
"We went straight into my closet and about 45 seconds later, you could hear our house being ripped apart," Tinker said. "It literally picked our house up off the ground and threw it across the street. I was hospitalized for about five days. I broke my wrist, I was knocked unconscious and had a huge concussion. They think something wrapped around my leg and took a big chunk of muscle out of my leg – I had to get a skin graft."
It was during his initial recovery that he heard the news that his girlfriend, Ashley Harrison, was one of the six Alabama students lost to the storm.
"Right there in the hospital I found out I had lost my girlfriend… That was tough."
Tinker said that in the hospital, he made a decision of how he would live the rest of his life.
"I lost my girlfriend, I lost my two dogs, I lost my house, I couldn't walk. But right there I decided that this is part of God's plan. I didn't know where we were going to go, but I bought in and that's a choice I made every single day, and sometimes I had to make it multiple times a day."
Tinker recovered physically and rejoined the Alabama football team that helped Tuscaloosa residents recover from the storm by physically helping in recovery and clean-up efforts, and later emotionally by winning the 2011 BCS Championship.
"Something that I learned is that you either live in vision or you live in circumstance," Tinker said. "We all have circumstances in our lives. I literally went through a storm, but everybody has storms in their lives – family issues, financial issues, sickness – everyone has something going on.
"You have to make a choice and decide that you're going to live the vision. My vision was to help people."
Tinker recently released a book, with Tommy Ford, titled "A Season to Remember: Faith in the Midst of the Storm," which details his personal story surrounding the storm, his faith and the 2011 football season, one of the most memorable in Alabama football history. All proceeds from the book go to Tinker's non-profit, the Be a Blessing Foundation.
Meeting news and notes
- The Jaguars Booster Club presented a $3,000 check to the Jacksonville Veterans Resource and Reintegration Center through funds raised by a virtual half marathon, led by Dennis, Heidi and Connie Smith. "To give back to my fellow veterans and do it in a special way like this, under the leadership and initiative of Connie and her parents, it just goes beyond words," retired Rear Adm. Victor Guillory, City of Jacksonville director of military affairs, veterans and disabled services department said. "The Jaguars Foundation, the Jaguars Boosters - it's a treasure in Jacksonville."
- Jaguars Foundation president Peter Racine said that leadership and cooperation help the center work effectively. "There is so much going on that sometimes it's hard to connect all that," Racine said. "Under the leadership of Mayor Alvin Brown and particularly here Real Admiral Vic Guillory, and his right hand man Harrison Conyers, we work together to figure out how to make a center work."
- The club also presented a $2,500 check to the Jaguars Foundation.
- The club elected a board of directors and officers for the 2014 season, including returning president Mary Hewitt.
- Tinker and offensive lineman Jacques McClendon, Jaxson de Ville and Rachel and Hannah of the ROAR of the Jaguars mingled with boosters before and during the event.
- The club's 2014 Holiday Gala is scheduled for Tuesday, November 18. For more information, and to join the Jaguars Booster Club, visit www.jaguarsbooster.com.