Dee Hart was on the field for the first day of fall camp for Colorado State, making the Alabama transfer officially a Ram. He is expected to compete to be
Dee Hart was on the field for the first day of fall camp for Colorado State, making the Alabama transfer officially a Ram. He is expected to compete to be the Rams' starting running back. (Luke Whittaker / Loveland Reporter-Herald)

FORT COLLINS — Dee Hart is officially a Ram.

The Alabama transfer was on the field for the first of two practices Monday as Colorado State opened fall camp. He is eligible to play immediately with two years remaining of eligibility, having earned his undergraduate degree in criminal justice at Alabama in late July.

Hart is at Colorado State because knee injuries set him back and he slid down the depth chart, but mostly because relationships count.

"Coach Mac has always been one of my favorite coaches I ever played for," said Hart, who was recruited by McElwain when he was still the offensive coordinator for the Crimson Tide. "That's sincere from the bottom of my heart. He gave me a pretty big opportunity to come and play for him, and I just really appreciate that.

"It goes way back, even at Alabama, before that. He recruited me, came to my house, sat down with me and told me exactly what he wanted from me. The relationship is pretty good."

McElwain, who opened his third fall camp Monday at Colorado State, remembers one of the things he promised Hart back in those days, and that was for Hart to earn a college degree.

"I'm probably more excited about (that than) anything is he just finished his degree and is the first person in his family to get a college degree," McElwain said. "That's something I'm really proud of, because that's something I promised him when I recruited him, and now we get an opportunity to give him a chance to go get a Master's degree."


The fact that Hart was in the first session was telling, as it was reserved for returners, while the newcomers and freshmen practiced later. McElwain said Hart's knowledge of the offense was part of the reason (that, and the team needed balance in the practices with four running backs in each). Hart said it is similar to what he remembers, though some of the verbiage has changed. McElwain also stepped away from team policy by allowing Hart to meet with the media after practice. First-year players are not allowed to talk to the media, and Hart was the only player made available after practice.

While at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Hart rushed for 4,154 yards and was the MVP of the US. Army All-American Bowl after his senior year by rushing for 100 yards in the game. On the Colorado State roster, he finds two players from that school: incoming freshman Deionte Gaines and walk-on punter Ricky Buckner.

But in two years at Alabama, Hart tore his right ACL twice, redshirting his first season and being limited to just 17 games in his career, totalling 22 carries for 78 yards and one touchdown last season. He played mostly on special teams there, but coming to Colorado State gives him an opportunity to play more at running back.

McElwain said it looks like Hart has lost a step, but he knows how he practices, something that the coach said others on the roster will take note of in short order. He won't be guaranteed anything, but Hart figures to factor heavily into the running back equation for the Rams as they seek to find a replacement for Kapri Bibbs, who rushed for 1,741 yards and 31 touchdowns before leaving early for the NFL.

"I'm a pretty good running back, and I've always been pretty confident in myself," Hart said. "But the guys I'm surrounded with here, we've been helping each other. I know the offense pretty well, and these guys here, we've got a couple of young guys, but (Jasen Oden), Bryce (Peters), they've been helping me. It's been pretty good coming out here, just getting acclimated with it, especially the weather."