Jet lag and soccer games won’t stop these UAB Football fans from spending a day with the Blazers and family


The Rigney-Martin-Roberts family. Three generations of UAB fans. (Pat Byington/Bham Now)

We followed two UAB families during this year’s Homecoming. What did we discover? For starters, UAB Gameday means much more than a football game.  

UAB and family are their superpowers

Renita Rigney with her superhero granddaughter (Pat Byington/Bham Now)

It was a miracle they were still standing. Renita Rigney and her husband Doug flew in from Italy the night before UAB’s Homecoming game against Middle Tennessee State University.  

You would never know the two of them had completed a transatlantic journey or were experiencing jet lag hours earlier. 

At both the tailgate party and game, they were smiling, hugging and rooting for the Blazers all afternoon, surrounded by five of their nine grandchildren at Protective Stadium

How did they do it? The Rigney’s have a superpower—love for UAB and their family.

8 graduates, 14 UAB degrees

Four of Renita and Doug Rigney’s “little Blazers” (Pat Byington/Bham Now)

In the late 1970s, Renita and Doug met as UAB undergrads, eventually got married and had three children. The coolest part—each child went to UAB and like their parents they all married UAB graduates.

“Between the eight of us we have 14 degrees from UAB.  And so we’re raising nine grandchildren to be little Blazers,” Renita said bursting with pride.

Erin Martin, the Rigneys oldest daughter, who lives in Nashville, brings her entire family (her husband and three kids) to every home football game.

“Saying we bleed green and gold is an understatement. I’ve gone to UAB games for as long as I can remember, and we have always had season tickets.” 

In fact, the Rigney family has a block of UAB season tickets—17 in total. Simply put, every Blazer home game at Protective Stadium is a “mini-family reunion.” 

The Carlee Family

The Carlee Family visits Blazer Village (Pat Byington/Bham Now)

Like the Rigneys, Brad and Jodi Carlee started going to UAB football and basketball games as undergrads in the 2000s. They also have three kids, including one in high school.

Lifelong UAB superfans, Brad is a financial officer at the UAB O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, while Jodi works as a registered nurse at Children’s of Alabama and as a research coordinator at UAB’s School of Nursing.

Over the years, the entire family not only attends football games, they are fans of men’s and  women’s basketball, volleyball and beach volleyball.

Carlee family playing games at Blazer Village (Pat Byington/Bham Now)

“UAB Athletics does a good job of engaging fans,” Jodi said. “It’s very affordable. For example, Blazer Village is really fun. There’s tons of stuff for kids to do and keep them entertained.”

If you need proof of how important cheering on the Blazers are to the Carlees, their son Samuel, the high schooler, had a soccer game scheduled during the Blazer’s Homecoming game. 

While most folks would have gone home after the soccer match which was played nearby in Homewood. 

Not the Carlee family. They rushed to Protective Stadium to catch the second half of the Blazers win against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders.

3 things your family will love at UAB football games

UAB Football
UAB’s Bryce Damous scores a 25 yard touchdown against Alabama A&M. (Jacob Blankenship/UAB)

UAB has three more home games on its 2022 schedule at Protective Stadium:

  • vs. Charlotte–October 15
  • vs. University Texas San Antonio–November 5
  • vs. North Texas–November 12

All three games kick off at 2:30PM.

1. Blazer Village

Beyond the games, the Rigneys and Carlees gave us a tour of the many exciting family-friendly activities you can take part in during the football game. A definitely win for parents who can’t sit still for long. 

Who doesn’t love face painting, games and freebies! Blazer Village opens four hours before kickoff, 10:30AM for the final three UAB games this season, and closes at 2PM, 30 minutes prior to game time to give you time to get to your seats before kickoff.

2. Blazer Walk

Led by Blaze, UAB’s lovable mascot, hundreds of UAB fans formed a pathway toward the entrance of Protective Stadium. For kids, it’s not only a chance to see their favorite dragon… they also have the chance to hear the UAB band play the fight song and high five 300-pound lineman.

3. Tailgating

UAB offers plenty of tailgating around Protective Stadium. The Rigney family tailgates with the Green Backers, which is made up of Erin Martin’s sorority and her husband’s fraternity. Over the years, she said they have seen their kids grow up with fellow UAB families.

A place families can call home

Erin Martin’s niece and little Blazer (Erin Martin)

Erin Martin summed up the whole Blazer Gameday experience best.

“We have a stadium that we can call home. I really love the Uptown area. It’s a great place for Blazer Village and Blazer Walk. The atmosphere is great.”

Interested in attending the next Blazers football game or sporting event? Get your tickets here

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Pat Byington
Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.

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