In Ashley’s Memory: Former long snapper reflected on a loss that changed his life

Carson Tinker survived the storm. But he also experienced an immense loss.

Alexander Plant | @aplant63, Sports Editor

Sixty-two tornadoes ripped through the southeast on April 27, 2011. More than 300 people were killed, including former Alabama long snapper Carson Tinker’s girlfriend, Ashley Harrison. 

Tinker and Harrison were huddled together in a closet in a 25th Street residence when deadly winds flung them more than 50 yards away from the house. 

Tinker was knocked unconscious and soon woke after the storms. He was just lucid enough to get up and call out for Harrison, according to The Spokesman-Review. Bystanders in his neighborhood noticed him and saw that he was covered in blood and had a broken wrist. Tinker awoke hours later in the hospital after the storms had passed. He learned there that Harrison was killed in the tornado. She was swept out of his arms.

Tinker and Harrison were huddled together in a closet in a 25th Street residence when deadly winds flung them more than 50 yards away from the house. 

Months later at the BSC National Championship press conference, Tinker reflected on what he and so many others went through in Tuscaloosa. 

“I didn’t choose to be in this situation,” he said. “If everything was back to normal, I would be completely content with that. I didn’t ask for this.”

Alabama teammates that season, like linebacker Mark Barron and quarterback A.J. McCarron, said that Tinker had become one of the leaders of the team during the 2011 season. 

“I felt like him coming back so fast kind of helped,” McCarron said. “He was around guys that loved him, not just for being No. 51 on the field and being our snapper, but he’s a great guy off the field, and any time you can bounce back real fast around loved ones, people that love you, it’s definitely going to help you recover through some tough times.”

Tinker said he was so appreciative and blessed by his teammates and that they were part of his inspiration. 

“We’re a family, we really are,” Tinker said in 2012. “There were guys who went through the same thing I went through.”

Tinker went on to continue through the 2011 and 2012 seasons. He won two BSC National Championships with the Crimson Tide. In 2013, Tinker declared for the NFL draft. Like almost all long snappers, he went undrafted, but soon after signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

Tinker has battled injuries over the past few seasons. He tore his ACL in 2017 during the Jaguars training camp. The following year he re-injured his knee during the season and then was released in March by the Jaguars before the 2019 season.

Tinker then signed with the New York Giants where he went back and forth between the active roster and the practice squad. In January 2021, he signed a reserves contract with the Giants and will stay there until he’s called up to the active roster. The average NFL career is three and a half years, and the long snapper position is one of the first to get cut every season. 

Before his NFL success, Tinker was commended for what he tried to do after the tornadoes. Being an inspiration to others helped him through those tough times, he said. 

“I’m glad a lot of people have come up to me and told me that I’ve inspired them to do something,” Tinker said in 2011. “That’s something I enjoy, and I get satisfaction from, being a blessing to others.”

Tinker proved his worth and continued his long-lasting career as a player. Even though he is on the reserve roster, he is still one of the top 10 highest-paid long snappers in the 2021 season. 

Tinker is lighthearted and poked fun at himself last April on Twitter. On an ESPN post about great athletic achievements, he joked that he was the lowest-rated player in Madden 14-15. The long-snapper still has more years to play in the NFL and is expected to make the 53-man Giants roster in the fall.