TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — The Sports Illustrated cover image began circulating Tuesday morning, a powerful photograph of former Alabama star Javier Arenas standing on a tree stump.
Wearing his crimson colored No. 28 jersey, Arenas was surrounded by the battered homes and splintered trees in his Tuscaloosa neighborhood. He was standing a good punt from the bathtub where he rode out the April 27 tornado.
The cover story in Sports Illustrated this week was reported by senior staff writer Lars Anderson and University of Alabama graduate student Allyson Angle.
Together, they interviewed some 40 people — many of them current or former Crimson Tide athletes — about their stories of survival and hope.
“I’m glad I it did for no other reason than to put Tuscaloosa into the national consciousness,” Anderson said. “It went away after the killing of Osama bin Laden, and the focus on the floods.”
Anderson, who lives in Birmingham and taught a sports journalism class at Alabama this spring, pitched the idea to his editors.
Once they approved, Anderson asked Angle if she would be interested in helping with the reporting. Angle, a former Crimson Tide swimmer, began an internship at the Anniston Star on Monday.
Angle, who says she’s passionate about sports journalism, first met Anderson last year at J-Day, also called Journalism Day at Alabama. Anderson was on a panel, and Angle approached him afterward to ask some questions. She also took his class this spring.
In the immediate aftermath of the tornado, Anderson said he scrambled to find his 14 students to ensure they were safe. Angle was one of them.
“He called to make sure I was okay, and we were trying to get a hold of everyone,” Angle said. “I was still in Tuscaloosa working. …Later, he said I have this big story idea to pitch to the editors, would you like to help me out? Of course I said yes. The experience of reporting for Sports Illustrated, that’s a dream.
“We kind of came up with a plan of who to talk to, and it went from there.”
Through the help of Alabama’s sports information department and Angle’s contacts (she knew many of the athletes, including Arenas), the reporting duo was able to construct this week’s centerpiece.
On Thursday, they will appear on The Paul Finebaum Radio Network as in-studio guests to tell their story.
Anderson, who did some of the reporting the afternoon after proposing to his girlfriend in Northport, remembers trying to process the huge amount of information with a deadline looming.
“You sit down with a blank screen, an epic story and just two days to write it,” Anderson said. “It’s so ove