Alabama walk-on lands playing time

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 2010

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Will Lowery’s view of Alabama football games has certainly changed.

The sophomore walk-on wasn’t sitting in the stands cheering when a Crimson Tide defensive back made a potential points-saving interception on national television against Penn State. He was the one making the play.

With all the blue-chip recruits dotting Alabama’s roster, Lowery has worked his way from scout teamer to on-the-field contributor for the top-ranked defending national champions. He’ll even make the trip to Duke on Saturday.

“I need to sit back and shake myself sometimes and thank the Lord for the opportunity that he’s given me,” the sophomore said. “It is hard for me to believe at times because I used to be sitting in the stands screaming my head off, just as much as when I was a little kid.

“Being here now is a pretty surreal experience.”

His interception at Alabama’s 3-yard line against the Nittany Lions was real enough.

The 5-foot-9, 188-pound Lowery has worked his way into the playing rotation in a secondary that featured two All-Americans and an NFL first-round draft pick last season. It helps that three starters and several key reserves are gone from that team.

Lowery’s teammates are happy to see him make the most of his opportunity.

“I’ll tell you what, I’m so proud of that kid,” tight end Preston Dial said. “He’s had a knack for the ball for a long time. I can’t tell you how proud I am. He deserves it and he’s a great player. He deserves everything he gets.”

Lowery seldom dressed out for Alabama games the past two years. He wasn’t on the travel roster except for the past two bowl games, though he eagerly checked the list when it was posted every week.

Most of the time he was just a normal student cheering from the stands. And he looks the part with his boyish face, moppish blond hair and average size.

“Ever since I’ve been here we’ve had good athletes at every position,” Lowery said. “I knew last year we had seven of our top eight guys graduate so there would be a chance to at least show the coaches I could play in the spring. I’ve always been whatever my job is on the team, that’s what I would do. If they wanted me to do scout team, that’s what I would do. I wasn’t really worried about getting on the field or not. I was just going to do my best and let things work out.”

So far, they have worked out surprisingly well. The only major colleges that recruited Lowery Air Force and Navy, “and that was because of my academics.”

“Birmingham-Southern was probably the closest I came to committing anywhere just because it’s such a great school and close to home,” Lowery said. “But other than that, I wasn’t recruited hardly at all. Not by big schools.”

The native of Hoover in suburban Birmingham had a connection at Alabama, besides being a fan. Hoover High’s defensive backs coach during Lowery’s first three seasons, Jeremy Pruitt, now coaches the Tide’s secondary.

He was director of player development when Lowery approached him about walking on.

“I owe a lot to him,” Lowery said. “He helped me develop as a player then and also now. He has so much knowledge of the game. he brings a lot to the table in terms of helping players develop and come along. It’s been nice having him here. He’s been a tremendous asset for me.

“After I decided not to play at a smaller school and come here, I thought about walking on. I talked to him. He talked to the coaches and said coach (Nick) Saban wanted me to come here and be a walk-on. So he definitely had a hand in it.”