Football team adds 37 freshman signees for fall 2012

Reid Newton, a senior offensive lineman at Lauderdale County High School, looks forward to trading his high school helmet for a UNA on this fall. 

Muscle Shoals High School senior Trey Tidwell has been watching UNA football all his life. Starting in the fall of 2012, he will become part of the tradition he grew up admiring.

“I’ve always wanted to play at UNA,” Tidwell said.

Tidwell, who said he knew he wanted to play for UNA after watching the team kick a game-winning field goal at a game he attended in childhood, is one of 37 true freshmen who signed with the Lions football team Feb. 1.

Of the 37 freshmen, 10 recruits were from local high schools. The Lions recruited one player from Florence High School, two from Muscle Shoals High School, two from Deshler High School, one from Lauderdale County High School, two from Rogers High School and two from R.A. Hubbard High School.

Three high school quarterbacks were recruited as well as seven offensive linemen.

“(The offensive linemen are) going to have to come in and help us early, because we’re so thin at that position,” head coach Bobby Wallace said.

Eddrick Harris, from R.A. Hubbard High School, chose UNA because his uncle once played for the Lions.

“I’m following in his footsteps,” Harris said.

Luke Wingo, from Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa High School, said he is looking forward to working with Wallace in the fall.

“I’ve always heard good things about coach Wallace and everybody’s excited about him coming back,” Wingo said.

Rod Winston and Will Minor from Deshler High School said they have heard good things about Coach Wallace and are ready to see his coaching ability for themselves.

Coach Wallace shares their excitement. He is looking forward to working with them, and said he can’t wait until the team starts training in August.

The incoming class is made up of athletes who are talented both on and off the field, he said.

“The thing we look for (in recruiting) is athletic talent and academic ability of the students, and then the character plays a big part also,” Wallace said.

While the Lions have also recruited six junior college transfer players, there are no players from four-year institutions because of any infractions at a previous school on the roster.

“I think you’ll find that when we start bringing in the high school players, the kids will represent the university maybe with a little more pride and be more respected,” Wallace said.

Recruiting high school players is a goal Coach Wallace set at his introductory press conference in January. Though the local high schools were mostly ignored during Coach Bowden’s time, Wallace was able to mend relationships with local high school coaches.

“It wasn’t very difficult because about every school I went into had a coach on the staff or a head coach that played for me when I was here before,” Wallace said.

A framed photo on the wall of Wallace’s office attests to that. Taken after the 1995 national championship win, the photo shows 19 seniors, 17 of whom were high school recruits. Ten of those players are now coaches, six of whom are coaches in the Shoals area.

“People have doubts that you can win championships with high school recruits, and it’s gonna take time, but that just proves that you can,” Wallace said.

As for Wallace and the incoming players, they can’t wait to get started working towards the goal of a national championship.

“I’m ready to start today if I could,” Tidwell said.