Rutherford County’s top two college football prospects for the Class of 2017 hadn’t listed national champion Alabama among schools they are considering.
However, that changed recently after the Crimson Tide intensified their recruitment. One now has Alabama in his top three. The other is now listening to what Alabama has to offer.
Oakland junior JaCoby Stevens and La Vergne junior Maleik Gray recently had conversations via FaceTime with Alabama coach Nick Saban. That came after Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin visited both high schools to talk with their coaches.
“That was like the best conversation I’ve had in my life,” Gray said. “He told me so much. Outside of just being a football player, he just told me a lot of things that can make me positive as a football player.
“It was just amazing how the program was set up. He told me a lot of things how the program is. It’s just amazing how successful you can be by going to Alabama.”
Gray and Stevens have offers from Alabama.
Gray followed the conversation with Saban up with a trip to Tuscaloosa to visit Saban and the campus. He has since inserted Alabama into his top three college choices, joining Florida State and Tennessee.
Kiffin was not permitted to talk with Stevens and Gray at their schools due to NCAA rules, and both athletes initiated the FaceTime chats with Saban. The five-time national championship coach couldn’t contact either athlete directly due to regulations.
“It gave me chills talking to him,” Gray said. “It was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I’m really talking to Nick Saban.’ “
Stevens didn’t have Alabama listed in his top seven schools when he released the list last month. Georgia, which is coached by former Alabama assistant Kirby Smart, is Stevens’ No. 1 choice. However, he was impressed by his conversation with Saban.
“The fact he did that for me, and he felt I was worth his time was crazy with him being Nick Saban,” Stevens said.
He said Alabama was now “something to think about” as he decides where to go to college.
Alabama is recruiting the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Stevens as a free safety. Recently he was in the ESPN Top 300 at No. 22 among top football prospects for the Class of 2017.
“And he talked about me playing both sides of the ball. It was just a good talk in general,” Stevens said.
Alabama is recruiting the 6-2, 195-pound Gray as a nickelback. Recently he was listed at No. 87 in the ESPN Top 300 list for top college football prospects for the Class of 2017.
“Seeing those guys send guys to the league, I want to be able to go to the league too,” Gray said of the NFL. “Alabama would be a perfect place to go.”
Reach Tom Kreager at 615-278-5168 and on Twitter @Kreager.