This past week, Alabama Crimson Tide Football new has sounded more like something from a Charles Dickens classic than a football spring camp analysis.
Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities begins,
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,…it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…
Hall’s Alabama Football Career Started with a Bang and Ended with a Whimper
In the past week, a drama befitting a modern-day novel played out in Tuscaloosa. On one hand, there is Agiye Hall, a prototypical sophomore wide receiver and high-profile 5-star recruit out of Valrico, Florida. The 6′ 3″ 195-pound wideout was the No. 45 overall player and the No. 5 receiver in the 2021 Alabama Football recruiting class according to the 247Sports Composite, and he made a huge splash in last year’s A-Day game with 4 catches for 72 yards. That performance was enough for him to be named the player of the game.
Unfortunately, his performance a year ago in the Alabama spring game will go down as the lone high spot of his Alabama Football career. With all the talent in front of him, Hall was unable to crack the lineup for the Crimson Tide during the 2021 campaign amassing a mirror image of 4 catches and 72 yards in the entire 2021 season.
Hall had an opportunity to make Alabama Football history
With injuries to both John Metchie and Jameson Williams keeping them from contributing to the Alabama efforts in the national championship game, Hall had an opportunity to live up to his hype. He did not produce. He caught 2 passes on 8 targets for 52 yards.
In a speech to the Alabama Football Coaches Association, Saban said of his young receivers including Hall, “We had three guys. They all had significant roles in the national championship game and not one of them–not one–could take advantage of the opportunity they had because they never ground it through. They never made themselves the best player they could be. And when they got the opportunity, they couldn’t do it.”
His lack of playing time was accompanied by rumors all season of his discontent, questionable effort in practice, and lack of attention to academics. Outside of a few cryptic posts on social media, nothing concrete came out from Hall or from within the Alabama program during the season, but Coach Saban’s comments in February leave little doubt that where there was smoke a fire of bad habits and discontent blazed for Agiye Hall.
Agiye wore out his welcome in the Crimson Tide program
Regardless of the specifics, what we do know for sure is that Hall’s Alabama Football career came to an end this week after he was suspended for a violation of team rules, and he entered the transfer portal. After practice on Wednesday, Coach Nick Saban addressed Hall’s situation saying, “He is suspended from the team for violations of some team rules, whether they’re academic or whatever. It doesn’t really matter. Everybody has a responsibility and obligation to respect the principles and values and do what they need to do. They’re all there to help them be more successful, so to respect those and do those are always really helpful.”
Coach Saban went on to say when asked about what Hall could do to rejoin the team, “He’s had that opportunity once, so I don’t know what his plans are for the future.” Without saying so directly, Saban’s statement wrote the final stanza of Hall’s story at Alabama.
In Contrast, Trey Sanders Pushed Through Adversity
Hall’s story can be directly contrasted with that of Trey Sanders. Sanders came out of Port St. Joe, Florida as the No. 6 prospect and the No. 1 running back in the 2019 recruiting class.
In his first year, the highly touted running back sustained a foot injury and missed the entire season. In 2020, he was involved in a November off-week car accident that ended his season and very nearly ended his life. This post from Jaylen Waddle shows just how far back Sanders had to come to return to football.
Last season, Sanders worked his way back into the rotation, but it was obvious that he had not recovered his 5-star form. In 2021, he bounced back to amass 314 yards on 72 carries with 2 TDs for the season.
Adversity motivated Sanders to return to Alabama Football
On Tuesday, one day before Agiye Hall’s suspension was announced, Sanders was made available to the media. Of the adversity he faced, he said, “It’s been a lot of ups and downs, but I say these past couple of years, it really helped me. Helped me a lot because were it not for what happened the past couple of years, I wouldn’t be the man standing in front of you today…So, I feel like that has helped me a lot. Going through that adversity, coming back and seeing what I was capable of myself — mentally and physically. So I feel like at this point right now, I’m a lot more ready now than I was my freshman year.”
Saban Encouraged Sanders to Press On
Pointing to Coach Saban’s encouragement along the way, Sanders went on to say, “I think Coach Saban was one of the main persons who kept me going throughout the process because there was times where I felt like I couldn’t do it…There were times where I was in a wheelchair and I was just rolling around the facility, going out to practice and watching other dudes practice and stuff like that. I wasn’t able to go out there and practice, and Coach Saban would call me into meetings and he’d talk to me and he’d give me hope on the future.”
He continued in reference to Saban’s encouragement, “Each time he talked to me, he gave me hope and he just gave me a better outlook on how I want to come out of my injury and come out of my car wreck. I felt like having someone on my side, that’s helped me a lot, most definitely. That was the main part, he’s played a big part in it.”
Similar Stories, Different Outcomes
The similarities and contrasts of these two players’ stories are apparent. Both are highly sought-after recruits from Florida who faced adversity early in their careers (albeit Sanders’ challenges on the surface to be much greater). The major difference seems to be Sanders’ buy-in to The Process and its architect.
The Agiye Hall story is still unfolding as he has entered the transfer portal. Likely, he will end up outside the SEC since league rules are such that the timing of his departure from Alabama would require him to sit out a year at another SEC school. Wherever he lands, history is not in his favor. It can be argued that Alvin Kamara is the only example of a player who parlayed transferring from Alabama during the Saban years into college and NFL success.
Trey Sanders continues to fight through adversity and apply The Process in a way that has him on track to make a significant contribution to Alabama this year and to position himself for a future in the NFL. Time will tell, but by all appearances, the road less taken through Alabama the Saban way seems once again poised to produce a football player with the preparation in life and the football skill to reach his goals. Doing things the Nick Saban way is not so much about pleasing the preeminent coach in college football as it is following a proven path to adulthood and future success.
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