Football ties run deep in the South.
And the bonds of guys that have played for the Alabama Crimson Tide may be about as strong as they come.
They'll be on opposite sidelines in Sunday's Super Bowl, but there will be a ton of shared respect between Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower and Falcons linebacker Courtney Upshaw when they take the field in Houston.
Nine years ago the two small-town products — Hightower from Lewisburg, Tenn., and its population of just over 11,000, Upshaw from Eufaula, Ala., and its population of about 13,000 — arrived as freshmen together in Tuscaloosa. It was the start of what each says is now an unbreakable friendship.