Alabama football success breeds future players from state

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 02: Bo Scarbrough
ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 02: Bo Scarbrough /

Alabama football is more than just the Crimson Tide. The high school football scene is growing even more talent as it feeds off of the university success.

Laine Higgins of The Wall Street Journal wrote a fascinating article about the exponential growth of teen football players in Alabama. The country has seen “a slide in football participation at the national level, where the total number of players is down 4.3% in the last decade,” because of concussions being pumped through the media machine as of late.

“Meanwhile the sport is booming in Alabama, where participation in 11-man high school football is up 40.8% since 2006-07, according to data compiled by the National Federation of High School Associations. That gain comes despite a 5.6% drop in the population of Alabama boys aged 15-19 over that same period.”

What is breeding this phenomenon? Success.

Alabama football is as close to professional sports as the state gets. Since 2009, the University of Alabama has won four national championships under head coach Nick Saban, a former coach in the National Football League and a highly decorated college football coach. When young boys look for heroes in their home state, Saban and the Crimson Tide are who come to mind first.

It’s been widely publicized that Saban chose to coach in Louisiana (at LSU) and then to Alabama because many of the players being drafted to the NFL were the strong young men from those states. If Saban was to compete for national championships, he wanted to recruit from the states that produced the best talent.

In the midst of all the concussion problems hampering other states’ high school football programs, Saban discussed his thoughts on how to instruct his players:

Having said that, Saban’s style of tackling that he preaches is considered one of the best in the country for efficiency and safety. His comment comes across that tackling does not need to have hysteria surrounding it; it should be common sense to keep the head out of the tackle and getting the opponent to the ground being the top priority, instead of a huge hit without wrapping up the ballcarrier.

With that in mind, and former Crimson Tide players in the NFL like Dont’a Hightower giving Saban praise for his coaching, it’s no wonder that teenaged Alabama football players want to continue playing the game that they love. They even may play for the coach, just like Bo Scarbrough, a star running back for the Crimson Tide and a native of Tuscaloosa, the university’s home town.

Higgins found evidence to support that theory:

"“’For us it’s more than just football,’ said Josh Niblett, head coach at Birmingham’s Hoover High School, whose program is ranked ninth in the country by USA Today. ‘It’s the brotherhood you build within the locker room, teaching young men how to be better fathers one day, better husbands one day, and discipline.’”"

Hoover, Alabama is a proud community, full of people who have passion not just for football but for life itself. They follow Alabama football like a religion because it follows their core values of family and hard work. Playing and coaching football to them means the same thing as instilling life lessons in their sons and daughters that will carry over to the next generation, making them better people well after their high school days are over.

Next: Saban talks 'Blind Side', NFL, NCAA, and more on 'Hey Coach'

The beating heart of the Crimson Tide is the teenaged Alabama football fan. The boys may grow up to be top-ranked players on the university team or model citizens succeeding in their local communities. The daughters may play football themselves, but many become strong women who lead by example. These teens become parents with firm values and character to pass on to the next generation.

With all of that going on, Alabama football should not find itself in any form of crisis for a long, long time. Especially not the Crimson Tide, as their fan base and recruiting pool continues to expand.