TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — For Crimson Tide football fans, championship titles are hardly anything new, yet those who gathered at the Mal Moore Athletic Facility Tuesday said cheering the team after a big win never gets old.
"It's always great. My first year out here, '92, was a national championship year, too," said Lance Shirley, a 42-year-old graduate of the University of Alabama.
"Four in seven years, that's unheard of. It's good to be an Alabama fan — of course, I still would be no matter what," Shirley said, clutching a jersey and magazine that he hoped to get autographed.
Shirley was among the roaring, selfie-snapping crowd that welcomed the newly-crowned national champions back home to Tuscaloosa just after sunset Tuesday. The team landed in Birmingham after a 747 charter flight and the crowd outside the university's athletic facility grew for hours as the team's scheduled arrival drew closer, chanting to pass the time.
Alabama claimed the title with a 45-40 win over Clemson in Glendale, Arizona Monday night in a game that fans said thrilled them until the last minute.
"The whole game was tight. By far the best national championship Alabama's played since Saban's been here," Shirley said. "All the others have been uncontested pretty much, but last night could have gone either way."
Fans cheered, chanted and waved pompoms as the team's buses arrived and the players got off. Many in the crowd held their cellphones in the air to capture photos and video of the arrival, some stood on tip toe and hopped up and down to catch a glimpse of their favorite player.
The crowd's noise quieted to a hum as players walked along a barricade to greet fans and sign autographs.
"It is so exciting and we're so happy for the players on this team because they work so hard and they've just made us really, really proud," said Libby Shaw, a 62-year-old University of Alabama School of Law graduate who lives in Tuscaloosa with her husband, Bob, also a graduate of the university's law school.
"I got goose bumps just watching Derrick Henry and Jake Coker and Reggie Ragland — you know the three mainstays," said Shaw, 77, over the noise from the crowd behind him.
"You're never too old to have goose bumps, right?"