Playing football for the University of Alabama has to be one of the greatest experiences a college athlete can achieve. The tradition, the glory and of course, the championships. Players usually stay anywhere from three to five years, and most guys consider that the “Glory Years”. Within each program, there are two types of players: a scholarship player and a walk-on.
For Will Lowery, the decision to walk-on at Alabama in the fall of 2008 wasn’t one he reached on his own. The former safety from Hoover High School in Birmingham, Alabama was just looking to be a student, but his former high school position coach and now Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt had other plans for him.
It was intimidating. I remember coach Pruitt told me to just come up to the football complex and get my physical done. I didn’t even know where the complex was.
To say Lowery was overwhelmed is probably an understatement. Here is this 5’9” 172-pound safety who had received offers to play football at Air Force and Navy but had ultimately passed them up. All the sudden, he is walking onto the practice field with some of the best athletes in all of college football. The team had brought in freshman phenoms like current Los Angeles Rams linebacker Mark Barron and former Carolina Panthers safety Robert Lester to be the future at safety. On top of the newcomers, the team already had guys like former four-star Justin Woodall and current Tennessee Titans safety Rashad Johnson leading the Tide’s secondary. It was an uphill battle for Lowery, but it was a battle he was ready to tackle head on.
After a couple years in the program, Lowery was a lot like most other walk-on players. He wasn’t receiving any playing time, and he was mostly contributing to the scout team. Things took a huge turn when Lowery was going into his junior year in 2010.
He had finally started to earn the trust of the coaching staff, and he was beginning to make an impact as a special teams player and in nickel situations. For most walk-on players, this would have been the top of the mountain. Nirvana achieved. That wasn’t the case for Lowery. He was in pursuit of something more.
The Tide had earned an invitation to the Capital One Bowl to play Michigan State following a heart breaking loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Starting strong safety Mark Barron had injured his pectoral muscle during the loss, and the defense needed a safety to step up. Yet again, Lowery was there to answer the call.
He only finished with three tackles in the game, but it was the fact that a walk-on had achieved something that no one thought was possible. Starting in a major bowl game for the reigning national champions. The dream had become a reality for Lowery.
He is a guy who really has a great attitude. He’s a hard worker. He’s an overachiever. He’s worked hard to get where he’s at in the program.
That’s as high of a compliment as one can receive from the greatest college football coach to ever live.
Lowery played in 13 games as a junior and he finished with 33 tackles, two interceptions and one pass deflection. Following his impressive junior year, Lowery was following a similar path to success when he tore his ACL in a 45-21 win over Georgia State. Even though the ACL injury ended his season, Lowery was still able to put up 20 tackles, half a sack and two pass deflections.
He was a two-time Academic All-SEC athlete, he won the team’s Special Teams Player of the Year award as a junior and he was awarded the Unsung Hero award as a senior. It’s incredible to think about what Lowery was able to achieve during his time at Alabama. He inspired coaches, teammates and fans alike.
If any high school player is out there debating whether or not to take that step and walk-on at a place like Alabama, just know that if you work hard enough and stay committed, you can reach the stars. Just ask Will Lowery.