On the two nights before the Jan. 9, 2012, BCS national championship game, a handful of Alabama players in crimson and gray sweats made their way to room 612 in the New Orleans Marriott. A few brought family members, but most arrived in clusters with teammates. They came in search of an edge.
The room belonged to Christopher Key, who was in town to demonstrate the wares of S.W.A.T.S. -- Sports with Alternatives to Steroids -- a two-man company run out of the back of a gym near Birmingham. Stocky and genial, with short black hair carefully curled at his forehead, Key began by telling the players that there would be thousands of cellphones in the Superdome the following night and that frequencies from those phones would be swirling through their bodies. "They're going to affect you guys very negatively," Key said rapidly and with a twang. "We figured out a way to manipulate that so that you aren't affected . . . [to] give you strength, give you balance, give you flexibility and help with pain."
Key asked 6'6", 304-pound defensive end Quinton Dial to hold one arm out to his side and to keep the arm up when Key tried to push it down. Dial, who towered over the 5'8" Key, did so easily. "Now I'm going to do nothing different," Key told the players. "But I'm going to take two fingers, and I'm going to take his cellphone, and I'm going to just put it up against [Dial's] chest." He turned back to Dial. "Take a deep breath, man up to me, O.K.? . . . Two fingers, everything you got on three, O.K.? One, two. . . ."
This time, while holding the phone to Dial's chest, Key easily forced the player's arm down to his side. Dial smirked, bemused. "What happened," Key said, "was the frequencies from the phone, as soon as they came into your energy field, they zapped ya, like a Taser."