TUSCALOOSA, Ala. _ The University of Alabama football team broke training camp Tuesday night, which means two things for the players.

First, after having the majority of the Capstone’s athletic facilities to themselves all month, fall semester classes begin Wednesday.

“It’ll probably feel a little different,” junior center Ryan Kelly said.

Second, Nick Saban’s tradition of having a guest speaker address the team each night of camp has again come to an end. The last one occurred Monday, when former basketball player Chris Herren made a return visit.

“Chris Herren was really good,” sophomore wide receiver Chris Black said.

Herren was a McDonald’s All-American high school basketball player who before playing in his first college game at Boston College was featured in multiple magazines including Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated, only to fail the first of many drug tests and eventually kicked out of school.

His numerous drug issues followed him to Fresno State, through short stints with two NBA teams and then several overseas teams. In 2004 he overdosed on heroin and was legally dead when paramedics arrived.

Herren has been sober since August 1, 2008, and now tries to serve as a model for recovery. This spring he raised money for his foundation, The Herren Project, by running the Boston Marathon and finished despite having a partially torn tendon in his foot.

He made a similar appearance at Alabama in 2012.

“Just his story and just the things that he went through,” Black said. “Kind of learning from other people’s mistakes or whatever.”

Other speakers this year included the Hip Hop Preacher, Eric Thomas,
former NBA player Antoine Walker on how made roughly $110 million during his 13-year NBA career and now has almost nothing to show for it, and NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent about a player’s real chances in the NFL after leaving early for the draft.

Previous guest speakers have included former player and director of football operations for the NFL Gene Washington about life after being an athlete, New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi, former New York mobster with the Colombo crime family Michael Franzese, and boxer Dewey Bozella, who spent 26 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.