It's not a fish story. Close friends and University of Alabama football stars Julio Jones and Mark Ingram did go fishing together during the offseason.
It was the involvement of a third party who paid for the trip -- Curtis Anderson of Athens -- that led the Alabama compliance department to investigate, as a precaution, for potential NCAA violations.
It's an example of how vigilant a high-profile football program must be.
Alabama officials said they've sent the results of their recently concluded investigation to the Southeastern Conference office, which in turn shares that information with the NCAA.
''The university is aware of Mr. Anderson and has taken appropriate steps," said a statement from Deborah Lane, Alabama's assistant to the president and assistant vice president for university relations.
''Mr. Anderson is not affiliated with UA. He is not a UA booster, fan or alumnus, and is not a UA season ticket-holder. In fact, Mr. Anderson told us that all of his family are fans of another SEC school."
Because Anderson isn't considered a representative of Alabama's athletics interests, it's not expected that the wideout Jones and the running back Ingram will be suspended from any games.
But no one can know for sure until the NCAA rules. Expect a decision before Alabama opens its season Sept. 5 against Virginia Tech.
Anderson can't believe it's gone this far.
''If they try to hurt those two guys," Anderson said. He didn't finish that sentence, but during a phone interview, he was clearly bothered by even the remote prospect that two young men he calls friends might be punished for helping him make a wish come true.
Anderson is the owner of Eagle Wholesale Supply in Athens. He paid for a fishing charter in the spring with Jones and Ingram from the Alabama Gulf Coast. Jones is from nearby Foley.
But there's so much more to the story.
''I didn't carry them fishing," Anderson said. ''They carried me fishing. I can't even stand up by myself."
He said he has degenerative disk disease, among a long list of physical ailments, and has been through six major operations.
He said, before his physical problems began, he was an outdoorsman who hunted and fished throughout the United States and Canada.
''For seven years, I haven't been able to go fishing," Anderson said.
''I wanted to go one more time. I said, 'If I can get a hook in one fish, I'll be happy.'"
Anderson said the charter boat captain was reluctant to let him take the trip because of his physical condition. He said they were supposed to travel 28 miles out but made it only six miles because he couldn't go any farther.
He said the trip was possible only because Jones and Ingram physically carried him onto the boat and supported him while on-board.
Anderson, who lives in Athens but also has a condo in Gulf Shores, wouldn't discuss how they met. But he said he'd been friends with Jones, who is from Foley, and Ingram for ''a long time."
He said they became friends, in large part, because he didn't know they were football players when they met.
''When I was told, 'This is Julio Jones,' I said, 'Whoopty-do.' I had no idea who Julio Jones was. I've got my right hand on this Bible. I swear to Jesus Christ, I had no idea who Julio Jones and Mark Ingram were when I met them and they became friends of mine.
''I didn't know for weeks and months."
Anderson said he's simply not a football fan.
''I don't have nothing to do with football at all," he said. ''I don't give a dang if anybody wins or loses."
Nor have his conversations with the players involved football, he said.
''Every single time I've talked to them -- ask anybody that knows me that has heard the conversations -- I say, 'How many days did you spend in the library this week? What are your grades? You tell me the honest truth.'
''They're personal friends of mine. Julio and Mark don't mean nothing to me as football players."
Anderson said he used to talk to the players ''non-stop" but was told to stop communicating with them. He wouldn't say who told him that, but did say that he has spoken to an Alabama official about the situation and has not spoken to anyone from the NCAA.
Anderson asked and answered a natural question about his friendship with Jones and Ingram.
''How can a 19- or 20-year-old black person care about a 55-year-old white person so much?" he said. ''Did the Bible say there was black and white?
''I haven't seen that. The Bible says we're all created equal."
Okay, where do I begin. 55 year old man befriends two 18 year olds and becomes their mentor and friend. He is so "invested" in their well-being that he basically demands to know if they are going to class and making good grades yet doesn't know what they do or are most well known for. They are such close friends for "weeks and months" and talk "non-stop" but the old man doesn't know they play football or what schools they are interested in when they "become" friends. They both go to SPUAT and he still doesn't know they play football for a major university in his home state. He doesn't care about football or who wins or loses but all of his family are friends of another SEC school. He's the only one who isn't a football fan. He says he has been friends with the two young men for a "long time" but refuses to tell how they've met. One of the young men is from Michigan and has only lived in Alabama for a year. He said, "they became friends, in large part, because he didn't know they were football players when they met." The old man despises football so much that he is more likely to befriend you evidently if you don't play. SPUAT tells the old man not to hang around Julio and Ingram anymore and conducts a 4 month investigation into this yet he has done nothing wrong. If he did nothing then he should continue to be "friends" with the two young men. Can football players not have friends? Why would SPUAT care if they became friends with someone? If the old man did nothing wrong, why won't he say how he met them?