"You could say it's been Alabama all along.''
This was a quote from five-star linebacker prospect Reggie Ragland on December 30, 2010 after announcing his intentions to play at Alabama while wearing his favored Crimson Tide hoodie.
Ragland came to Alabama as one of the more decorated in-state prospects in recent memory. Hailing from Madison, he was the consensus #1 ILB prospect in the country and showed up on campus as a full-grown man, standing 6'3" and weighing in over 240 pounds as a high schooler while reportedly running a 4.6 in the 40 yard dash. He could have gone anywhere he wanted to go to play football, and was physically ready to start in the SEC. Coming to Alabama would mean waiting his turn behind the likes of Trey DePriest and CJ Mosley.
Thankfully, he came to Alabama just the same.
Reggie was able to garner some playing time from the beginning, starting on special teams in his very first collegiate game. He became a special teams stalwart as the 2012 season wore on and began to see some garbage time snaps on defense toward the end of the season. As a sophomore in 2013, he remained a key contributor on special teams while stepping in as the primary backup ILB. He finished his second campaign with 17 total tackles.
Entering the 2014 season, the rising junior knew that it was his time. He was able to win the job as the "Will" linebacker, attempting to fill a huge void left by Mosley, who graduated and was playing for the Baltimore Ravens. In the opening game of the season his running mate, MLB Trey DePriest, was suspended for a minor NCAA infraction, thrusting Ragland into a leadership role. Over the course of his junior campaign, Ragland became the star of the Alabama linebacking corps. He finished the season with 95 tackles, an interception, one forced fumble, three fumble recoveries, and was named first team All-SEC.
Ragland rightfully pondered leaving for the NFL after his junior season, as there was little left for him to prove at the college level. Fortunately for Alabama fans, his love for the Crimson Tide and desire to lead the team to another national title, along with his commitment to earning a degree, proved too strong as he decided to come back for his senior season. He has been among the best linebackers in the nation during the 2015 campaign, leading the No. 1 ranked defense as its clear captain, while finishing as a finalist for the prestigious Butkus and Bednarik awards and earning unanimous All-American honors. He will be drafted no later than the second round in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Reggie Ragland epitomizes what Alabama football is all about. He grew up loving the Crimson Tide and fulfilled a dream in wearing the uniform on Saturdays. He is a big, strong, humble, and physical player who lets his play do the talking and leads by example off the field. He holds a degree in Consumer Affairs and will soon be making millions as an NFL starter. Congratulations, Reggie, and thanks for the memories.