When he pulls up in his car, the kids who can look out the window will often start calling out his name. They want to him to come read, to play. Just spend time with them.
Sometimes he has a hard time getting in the door.
He always has a difficult time leaving.
“I have enjoyed every moment of going there,” Joshua Casher said.
Although the senior offensive lineman came to Tuscaloosa from the Mobile area to make his mark as a University of Alabama football player, he’s also made an impact that will affect numerous lives.
Casher has become a guiding force at Alberta Head Start, the comprehensive child development program for 150 kids between the ages of six weeks to five years, located just east of campus. It’s geared toward educating children from low-income homes and/or those with disabilities.
He’s been showing up for two years now and bringing along anyone he can.
“Oh my. He means a great deal to our program,” center manager Carlisa Sullivansaid. “When he comes out the children absolutely love his presence.
“He’s a joy to have.”
It all started when Casher had to do two hours of community service as a class requirement. He had heard about Head Start’s “Real Men Read” program from Joe Suiter in the university’s Life Skills & Community Outreach department, and it was the kind of thing he was thinking about getting involved with on his own.
All it took was one visit.
“It has been, ever since then, an incredible ride,” he said. “I think that what captured me right off the bat was how engaged the kids were. They were ‘Who is this big-old guy coming to show interest in us, and coming to read to us?’ When I was just reading to them they were just like so sold.
“They didn’t even know that I was a football player for the University of Alabama. You could tell they were just happy to see a male figure — just to come and really show that ‘Hey, I want to take time out of my schedule, whatever I’m doing and pour it into you all.’”
If you ever meet Casher, it’s easy to see why he likes going so much.
He was the one on an episode of “Training Days: Rolling with the Tide” on ESPN, who turned everyone’s heads by signing happy birthday to junior quarterback Jalen Hurts in the new dining facility.
That’s just normal for him.
“Oh, he’s just out of the world, man,” sophomore defensive lineman Quinnen Williams said. “It’s just like he comes with a smile, he comes with a big voice every day. So when he says stuff, everybody just listens because as you can see, he has a big voice. You know what I’m saying? So when he speaks up, everybody listens. Everybody will recall what he’s saying.
“He’s always positive. He’s always speaks highly of everyone. So everyone loves Cash.”
Having already earned his undergraduate degree in exercise physiology and exercise science, concentrating in physical therapy, Casher’s now pursing his master’s degree in sports business management. He’s due to finish in December and after football hopes to be a physical therapist and have his own chain of stores.
But it’s his family, and his mother, who has influenced him the most in this regard. Casher has four siblings, three brothers and one sister, with a niece and two nephews. He’s in the middle, the third child.
When they get together …
“Being outgoing, that’s nothing for me because every child in my family, every last one of us we have big personalities,” he said. “Impacting people is not really hard for me because if you engage with us in some shape or form you’re going to remember who we are. That’s just how we were raised.
“It’s funny because my mother, she’s not the most outgoing type, she’s a little more reserved. So it’s kind of funny because with all of her kids we’ll go nutty. There’s never a dull moment.”
Now imagine that kind of person who is 6 foot 1, 290 pounds, who likes nothing better than to get tackled by a bunch of little kids. Sometimes Casher doesn’t even need a reason to go over to Head Start, he just shows up.
“It’s not just me reading all the time,” he said. “Sometimes I go over there and just help clean up the cafeteria and then I go read to a couple of the classes. It’s whatever they want me to do. The primary purpose of my going over there is to see the kids.”
Actually, what Casher often does is give the teachers a break, like with the cafeteria after lunch. When they start to clean up after the kids he’ll sort of say, “I’ve got this,” so they can focus on the students.
Only Casher doesn’t stop there. He’s brought other football players with him, like Jamie Mosley, Christian Miller and Xavier McKinney. The freshmen collectively went over one day last year and did everything from help pull staples out of the doors to pressure washing.
As one of the football team’s representatives to the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, Casher got it involved as well, along with other Crimson Tide teams — including men’s and women’s basketball, softball and rowing. Just about every day there’s an Alabama athlete going through.
“Last year we had an egg hunt and that was really the first time the entire athletic department came out and put their whole support behind it,” said Sullivan’s assistant, Suzanne DuBose. “They donated eggs, put prizes in the eggs. Hid the eggs.
“That was really the first time we saw the might of the Alabama athletics department coming to help at our center. It’s all because of him.”
In the spring, the football program recognized Casher and Mosley with the Derrick Thomas Community Service Award. Casher was also a finalist for the university’s Paul W. Bryant Student-Athlete Award, the highest honor at the annual Crimson Choice Awards.
“We have a lot of players who are really involved in the community, community service and do a lot of things in the community,” Nick Saban said. “Josh Casher is one of the leaders of the team and there are so many things that he does. When we built the 17thhouse [Nick’s Kids home with Habitat for Humanity, one for every national championship], one day we had 30 players out there working on a Saturday, helping on the house.
“I don’t think anybody really feels anything better than when he gives something back, to someone else and helps someone else, and you have compassion for it.”
Casher certainly does.
Plus he does get paid in countless little hugs and smiles.
“He’s just a big teddy bear,” DuBose said.
“They adore him,” Sullivan added.