Best High School Stories About Crimson Tide Stars

Jahmyr Gibbs had seen enough.

The opposing defensive linemen at Creekview had torpedoed the legs of the offensive linemen throughout the high school game one night in September 2019 in Georgia. Matt Land, then Gibbs’ coach at Dalton, said some also sometimes held the legs of linemen, in an attempt to slow Gibbs and the running game.

Finally, with about four minutes left in the game, this torpedo technique resulted in an injury to Dalton’s left tackle. He tried to hobble, but he couldn’t. He went to the floor and Dalton called an injury timeout.

“I’m crazy, the team is crazy. Heck, the band is crazy,” Land said. “Everyone is angry because everyone can see what’s going on.”

Dalton had a 35-19 lead late in the fourth quarter, but the score didn’t matter. Land, Gibbs and the team wanted to respond.

During the injury timeout, Land gathered his team and plotted. He explained how Dalton would look like he was running a buck sweep, a frequent play call from Dalton, but then run something else and score.

“Coach,” Gibbs interjected. “Run brown.”

No, no, no, Land said. Creekview would expect Brown, the play calls for a swipe to the right.

“Coach, brown course,” repeated Gibbs.

Land again explained why Dalton shouldn’t. Then Gibbs reached out and grabbed his arm.

“Coach, run brown,” Gibbs said, “and I’ll score.”

Okay, Land said. Dalton could run brown.

Then Gibbs took over, got past the defense and ran for a 66-yard touchdown. He finished the day with 24 carries for 315 yards and six rushing touchdowns.

“He called his shot,” Land said, “and hit a home run.”

Fast forward three years, and Gibbs is about to start his first season as a running back for Alabama football, where he should be a star. Transferred from Georgia Tech this offseason, Gibbs is one of many talented players on Crimson Tide’s roster who should make an impact this season.

Before these star players were among the best in college football, each had pivotal moments in high school.

The Tuscaloosa News posed the same question to several of its high school coaches this summer: What’s the best high school story about your player?

Here are their answers.

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The pivotal change of Will Anderson Jr.

If it had been up to Anderson five years ago, he wouldn’t be chasing SEC quarterbacks today. He wouldn’t have led the nation with 34.5 tackles for loss in 2021. In fact, he wouldn’t play defense at all.

He would be back.

Anderson was entering his sophomore year when new coaches at Dutchtown High School in Georgia said they wanted him to play defensive end.

“He wanted to play fullback,” defensive coordinator Will Rogers said. “I basically told him, ‘No. SEC defensive ends are just like you, son. And he went home and mourned his mother about it.

His mother, Tereon Anderson, called Rogers to figure out the thought process. They talked and she decided to trust the coach. His son too.

“You ask him to do something, he’s going to do it,” Rogers said. “Once he bought, it was over.”

Rogers said Tereon thanked him often.

Alabama football fans probably would too.

The harshness of Henry To’oTo’o

The day before the 2018 California State Championship, Henry To’oTo’o was about as unlucky as it gets.

De La Salle High School in Concord, Calif., was going on a pre-game tour with Bryce Young and Mater Dei (Santa Ana). To’oTo’o was jogging, then he messed up.

His foot was broken. He would need surgery.

His trainer, Justin Alumbaugh, told him he had a big future ahead of him, so To’oTo’o would probably be better off shutting him down.

That was not an option for the future Alabama linebacker, however. To’oTo’o was not about to miss the last game of his high school career.

He played the next day, broken foot and everything.

“It was amazing,” Alumbaugh said. “His presence there, it enhanced our program.”

De La Salle ended up losing 35-21, but To’oTo’o came away with a legend.

“Just having him there kept us in the game against a team that was quite superior to us,” Alumbaugh said. “Watching him give it his all and try to do everything he can.”

Bryce Young’s Escape

Before the Iron Bowl player, Young had the IMG Academy player.

Central Florida was ranked No. 1 in the nation while Mater Dei was No. 3 in 2018. The game which aired on a regional Fox Sports channel was filled to the brim with four- and five-star talent, and in them final minutes, IMG looked set to win.

Or at least that’s what he thought.

Trailing by three, Young went 6-for-6 downfield, hitting crucial third pitches. In the final play, he kept the ball on a play-option play and burst into the end zone with 1:09 left. Mater Dei won 28-24.

“This game gave him so much confidence that he can play with the elite and he is elite and he can beat the elite and play at a very high level,” said Mater Dei quarterbacks coach Taylor Kelly. . “Since then, after that game, his confidence was at an all-time high.”

Mater Dei quarterback Bryce Young is tackled during a high school football game against St. John Bosco in Bellflower, Calif.

Emil Ekiyor’s training block

Ekiyor’s time with the freshman team lasted one game.

In early June 2014, Cathedral High School in Indianapolis had its varsity offensive linemen training side-by-side with the freshmen. First, college linemen went through the simple drill in which they practiced their first three steps while blocking someone. Then the freshmen went. The first was Ekiyor.

He was supposed to take only three steps, but he didn’t stop there. He drove the kid nearly 10 yards before he could even recover.

The offensive line coach turned to coach Rick Streiff.

“Coach…” began the assistant.

“…Yeah,” Streiff finished for him.

No additional words are needed. Ekiyor joined the varsity team that day and never looked back. He started that year as Cathedral won a state championship.

“It was obvious he had nothing to do with the freshman,” Streiff said.

The beginnings of Brian Branch

Sandy Creek High School in Georgia was scheduled to field a punt, but its regular punt returner was suspended.

So, Sandy Creek turned to a freshman – Branch.

“His eyes were big as wedges,” said his trainer, Brett Garvin.

Branch had taken reps on the punt return in practice. The coaches knew he could handle it well in this setting, but Garvin said Branch hadn’t set foot in a college game until then.

It didn’t seem to matter. Branch took advantage of it.

Alabama’s future defensive back returned the punt at the 2-yard line.

“He was pretty quick when the lights came on,” Garvin said, “he’s upping his game.”

Cameron Latu kick return

Teams have always avoided kicking Latu.

At 6-foot-5 and 236 pounds, he was one of the top athletes at Olympus High School (Utah). His coaches had previously dismissed him for kicks, but the future Alabama tight end never had the chance to dismiss one.

“They were scared of what he might do,” said his coach, Aaron Whitehead.

Well Named. Murray High School found out why.

Murray kicked the football at Olympus in 2017, and Latu finally saw his chance to return a kick.

Latu snatched the bouncing soccer ball then stabbed through kick coverage. The kicker had a chance to stop him along the sideline, but it wasn’t a fair game. The top of this Murray defender’s helmet barely reached the height of Latu’s shoulder pad.

Latu shoved him to the ground then ran into the end zone to cap off a 75-yard kickoff return.

Nick Kelly covers Alabama football and men’s basketball for The Tuscaloosa News, part of the USA TODAY Network. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly

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