While that in itself is not surprising, considering Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide's high profile and success as of late, what makes this story noteworthy is that Del Rio turned down actual scholarship offers to become a walk-on, according to Paul Myerberg of USA Today:
Luke's a nice, solid, three-star prospect, one who can tout a trio of offers from AQ-conference programs in UCLA, Oregon State and Oklahoma State.
But instead of accepting one of those offers – getting a free ride to play football in college – Luke Del Rio has opted for a more unorthodox route: Del Rio will walk on to the program at Alabama.
Luke announced his decision on Twitter:
The decision to turn down actual scholarship opportunities to play at legitimate programs like UCLA, Oregon State and Oklahoma State is extremely unorthodox, but it goes to show you just how big of a recruiting draw Alabama has become.
Saban's program is arguably the class of college football right now, and if Alabama goes on to win its second straight national championship, there will be almost no way to dispute that. The kicker is, not only is Alabama successful right now, but Saban's abilities as a recruiter and Alabama's recruiting philosophy allows it to remain a powerhouse on a yearly basis because the Tide are constantly bringing in elite talent to replace the elite talent that leaves.
It's a cycle of excellence.
How does Del Rio fit in with Alabama? The real issue here is that Saban's 2013 class already features 4-star quarterback Cooper Bateman—who could very well be the future signal-caller for Alabama—and 3-star QB Parker McLeod.
Del Rio's status as a 3-star quarterback in no way means that he can't compete with those two within his own class, but there's also redshirt freshman Phillip Ely to think about, who himself is behind junior quarterback A.J. McCarron on the depth chart right now. It's also worth noting that McCarron is coming back for his senior season.
The opportunity to see the field for Alabama is slim to say the least for Del Rio, and that's what makes turning down scholarship opportunities with other programs so puzzling. That said, we can't write Del Rio's future with 'Bama off just because of his star ranking, and you never really do know how a depth chart will shake up.
If anything, this decision illuminates Alabama's biggest draw with recruits, and that's its ability to offer a legitimate chance to compete for a national championship on a yearly basis.
Alabama can't guarantee Del Rio the chance to see the field, but by walking on with the Crimson Tide, he'll be joining a program that will have legitimate and realistic national-championship aspirations each year.
Is that worth turning down a scholarship for?
Apparently, for Del Rio, it is.
Recruit ratings courtesy of Rivals.