2012 recruiting class reaches senior football season

Members of the 2012 North Alabama football team pose for a picture before practice Aug. 20. These players were a part of coach Bobby Wallace’s first team since returning to UNA for his second stint.

When North Alabama made the decision to rehire head coach Bobby Wallace in 2012 after his successful stint in the ‘90s, Wallace knew he needed to make an impact right away.

The past three years of success UNA has experienced started with the 2012 recruiting class.

Heading into 2015, the Lions have 15 players returning from its 2012 recruiting class, including 12 lettermen.

“We were very fortunate to sign some of the players we signed,” Wallace said. “We have 10 starters out of that group. This is a great group with a lot of leadership and camaraderie.”

UNA signed 37 high school players and four transfers in 2012.

Wallace said the philosophy of recruiting high school talent helped lay a foundation for the future.

“This group was the backbone of the fact we were able to not have a losing season the first year and win the conference the last two years,” he said.

Wallace, being rehired in January 2012, had one month to put a coaching staff together and recruit players before National Signing Day.

“We had a late start,” Wallace said. “I didn’t have a coaching staff in place until probably two weeks into January. All of this happened in about a month so we are very fortunate.”

While many of the lettermen from the 2012 class signed into the program, others — such as offensive lineman Stephen Evans, tight end Grant Lake and fullback Hayden Henderson — came in as walk-ons.

While most of the high school recruits were within a two-hour radius of Florence, Evans, a red-shirt junior, ventured all the way from Boston, Massachusetts.

“My passion brought me here,” Evans said. “I just needed some change from being in Boston. I wanted to try something new and UNA has really become my home.”

Evans, who has family in Livingston, where rival school West Alabama resides, said his family told him about UNA.

“(Florence) is a different environment,” Evans said. “I really don’t think about it now that I’ve been here for almost four years. I like it here and it’s been my home ever since.”

UNA granted Evans a scholarship in 2013 after his redshirt season.

“My first season, Coach (Scott) Harper told me to keep working hard and something good will come my way,” Evans said. “I went home that summer and found out I got scholarship money which made me and my mom happy.”

Evans said the guys he was recruited with made him feel at home.

“Since it was Coach Wallace’s first year back it was new for all of us,” Evans said. “I felt like I grew up with all of my teammates from freshman year until now. To see where we are now is a great feeling.”

Senior Khyle Jackson said he felt like many teams overlooked him as a high school recruit from state champion Madison Academy.

“I really didn’t have any offers until UNA offered me,” Jackson said. “I liked the coaching staff and I really gelled with the players from the freshman class all the way up until our senior year.”

Jackson said he thinks the 2012 class “is up there” as one of the best in UNA history.

“We weren’t sure how we would turn out,” Jackson said. “We grew together and we got better together and personally I got better as a player at UNA.”