Last year, Mike Bernier was a punter for Eastern Illinois. This year, he’ll get a chance to contribute for the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide.

Anyone with the chance to upgrade from an FCS school to the SEC should be ecstatic, but for Bernier, the move was made for family reasons — his mom, Sonja, is battling stage 4 breast cancer.

According to, Bernier, an Alabama native, made the difficult decision to leave Eastern Illinois and return home:

“You’ve only got one mom,” he said. “And with talking to people at my church, and family and friends, I didn’t see it going any other way. I felt like being at home with my mom was my No. 1 choice and that’s what I had to do.”

He originally decided to play football at Jacksonville State in Jacksonville, Alabama, for the 2016 season, but had a slight change of heart and opted to shoot for the stars, reporter Daniel Boyette writes:

“Mike sent a message to Alabama special teams coach Bobby Williams to express his interest in the Crimson Tide and to see if there was a spot available. Williams responded within a week asking Mike to come on a visit. Not long after, Alabama offered Mike a preferred walk-on spot and he committed April 17.”

With so many negative headlines in the news lately (so many that SEC commissioner Greg Sankey felt the need to comment on them), it’s nice to see Nick Saban, Bobby Williams and the Crimson Tide reaching out to a player in need and giving him a chance to play the game he loves while taking care of the ones he loves at home.